Can You Sue for a Bar Fight?

Increased Bar Fights Puts North Dakota Police on High Alert

One aspect of the North Dakota oil boom that has not escaped the notice of local law enforcement is the influx of workers who, at the end of the work week, have lots of money and time to kill. U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon has been quoted as saying, It’s not Mayberry anymore, referring to North Dakota’s steadily increasing crime rates including an increase in bar fights.

According to this article by, “a highly visible four-person team patrols the the local bars in Dickinson, North Dakota on random Friday and Saturday nights to head off brawls that have become increasingly common. Police reported calls were up nearly 45 percent from 2009 to 2014.” Cited by Helena Independent Record, North Dakota has the highest number of bars per capita. It comes as no surprise then to see the influx of workers patronizing one of many local bars and finding themselves in an escalated situation.

Bar Fights are More than a TKO

While a “bar fight” may seem like fairly innocent rowdiness among working men and women, the potential for someone to be seriously injured is real. It’s worse if a bar patron is injured in a fight he (or she) did not seek or want to be involved in, hence opening the doorway to a potential personal injury claim.

A bar patron who winds up in the hospital after a physical altercation can face steep medical expenses resulting from bar fight injuries as well as lost income during their recovery. They could potentially be disabled for life, or the injury could even result in the tragic loss of life. Such was the case for the famed De’ Von Pickett, manager of Nicki Minaj who at the age of 29 lost his life in a Philadelphia bar fight.

If the bar patron’s bar fight injuries were through no fault of his or her own, the patron or the patron’s family might seek legal recourse against the person who injured the patron and against the bar owner who let it happen. Each state’s law is different so knowing the state law is the first place to start.

3 Steps to Know if Bar Fight Injuries Qualify for a Personal Injury Claim

Step 1. Know the State Law

It’s obvious how a person who assaults another may be held liable through a personal injury claim, it may be less easily understood how and why a drinking establishment or any other business might be liable for a patron’s injuries.

North Dakota adheres to what several states commonly refer to as the “dram shop” laws. These laws hold business establishments that sell alcohol liable for the actions of intoxicated patrons who harm other individuals.

In North Dakota, a business owner can be held liable for injuries if they (or their employees) knowingly provide alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated person” or someone younger than 21, the legal drinking age.

A few key legal considerations for the injured bar patron to help their claim would be:

  • He or she (the injured party) was not responsible for the injury (i.e., the injured party did not cause or instigate the fight)
  • Can clearly identify the other person who was responsible for the injury
  • Proof that the bar owner or employee(s) served alcohol to the responsible party at a point in time in which the person was clearly intoxicated
  • That person’s intoxication was the cause of the action (fight) that is leading to the injured person’s claim

Step 2. Gather Your Evidence 


A personal injury lawsuit after a bar fight might rely on such evidence as: a filed police report, testimony from witnesses, security camera footage and/or, in the case of a dram shop claim, receipts or debit card records that indicate how much alcohol the allegedly intoxicated patron had purchased and presumably consumed. Collecting this type of documentation will help strengthen the injured party’s claim.

Step 3. Get the Right Kind of Legal Experience 


A personal injury lawsuit isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk case after every bar fight, but it is valid protection provided by law for those who are injured through no fault of their own. Particularly if you have been hospitalized after a bar fight and have a clear understanding of the circumstances of the fight and names of witnesses, it could be worthwhile to explore the potential for a claim.

Ask us about the personal injury claims process and the statute of limitations, which vary by state because timing is critical when seeking compensation.

Larson Law Firm Aggressive & Experienced

Larson Law Firm P.C. has been operating in Minot, North Dakota for over 30 years and is trained and equipped to fight aggressively for your personal injury claim. Our firm has the experience to help you navigate through the personal injury claim process; contact us today for a free initial consultation.

We are here to help you or your loved one with a potential personal injury or dram shop claim.


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