DRAM SHOP LAW: WHAT IS IT AND WHERE DOES IT APPLY?

In 2015 alone, more than 10,000 people were killed in accidents that would not have happened if not for alcohol. It is estimated that drunk driving accidents end a life every 51 minutes, and nonlethal accidents happen even more frequently.

Most people are aware of the dangers posed by those who operate a vehicle after drinking. However, many do not know that New Jersey law allows accident survivors and families of victims to file a suit against the people and establishments that served them in the first place. Here are the answers to some common questions regarding dram shop law, including what it is and where it applies.

What is Dram Shop Liability?

“Dram shop” is an outdated name for a bar. Dram shop liability laws allow the victims of injuries caused by intoxicated people to file a suit against the bar where the person became intoxicated. Dram shop law may also apply to restaurants, clubs, and other establishments that serve alcoholic drinks.

The principle behind these laws is that they can be used to hold these establishments accountable for injuries and deaths caused by the people they served. This encourages them to ensure that their customers are drinking responsibly, exercising care, and not getting behind the wheel.

Dram shop liability is part of state law under New Jersey Statute 2A:22A, known as the New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act. The act explicitly states that its intent is “to protect the rights of persons who suffer loss as a result of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages” by licensed establishments, such as bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic drinks. It approaches this by providing specific conditions for what would count as negligent service.

What Can Hold an Establishment Liable?

The specific conditions themselves can be found in Statute 2A:22A-5. They state that licensed alcoholic beverage servers will be considered negligent if the following occurred:

  • They provided alcoholic drinks to a minor when the server was, or should have been, fully aware that this person was underage.
  • They continued to provide alcoholic drinks to someone who was “visibly intoxicated.” Statute 2A:22A-3 defines the term as “a state of intoxication accompanied by a perceptible act or series of acts which present clear signs of intoxication.”

The plaintiff and their legal team must provide proof that either of these occurred, but they cannot claim compensation based on this alone. Statute 2A:22A-5 further states that they must prove this “negligent service” directly contributed to their injury, damage, or loved one’s death. It also states that they must prove it was a “foreseeable consequence” of the service. If they can prove all three in court, only then can the plaintiff claim compensation under dram shop law.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, you may be able to claim compensation not only from the driver but also from whoever gave them more alcohol than they should have. You can speak with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney today by contacting the Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A. Our firm provides legal services related to dram shop law cases and we are willing to assist you with your own. Call us at (973) 358-6134 for a free consultation.

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