New Jersey’s Dram Shop Laws Explained

drink and drive

The term “dram shop” dates to England in the 1700s. It refers to drinking establishments that sold gin by the spoonful, also known as by the “dram”. Today, dram shop liability laws allow those injured to file claims against a social host, bar, tavern, or other licensed premises that served or sold alcohol to a person who later caused an accident due to their intoxication. With these social host liability laws, the state of New Jersey aims to hold businesses that sell alcoholic beverages responsible for the sale of alcohol; as the aftermath can potentially be devastating when a drunk person operates a motor vehicle or causes an accident.

Dram shop liability laws involve far more than drunk driving accidents. If, for example, a restaurant serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual, and that individual then starts, or has involvement in, an altercation on their way home from the premises, liability for the damages or injuries that individual causes may be the shared all or in part by the licensed premises.

They devised these laws for two key reasons. First, to permit an opportunity for significant restitution for victims of drunk drivers. Second, to obligate those who serve alcohol to be mindful of the state of their patrons. And mandate they exercise good judgment and civic responsibility in their business practices; with regards to the selling and serving of alcohol.

Dram Shop Law in New Jersey

Dram shop liability is codified under New Jersey Statute 2A:22A also known as the New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act. This statute states that the injured person due to the actions of an intoxicated individual has the right to seek monetary damages from the vendor who sold the alcohol if:

  • They continued to serve alcoholic beverages to a “visibly intoxicated” person. New Jersey Statute 2A:22A-3 defines “visibly intoxicated” as “a state of intoxication accompanied by a perceptible act or acts which present clear signs of intoxication.”
  • The vendor either sold or served alcohol to a minor (under the age of 21); or had reason to believe that they were a minor.

How Do They Handle Dram Shop Cases?

Under the Dram Shop Act, the plaintiff and their legal team must first provide proof; that at least one of the two requirements as mentioned above meet. But they cannot claim compensation based on this alone. Statute 2A:22A-5 further states that the prosecution must prove this “negligent service” directly contributed to the person’s injuries, damage, or death of a loved one. The Statute also states that it must be proven it was a “foreseeable consequence” of the continued service. If the prosecution can prove all three of these accounts in court, only then can the plaintiff claim compensation under dram shop liability law.

In New Jersey, Dram Shop Liability is subject to comparative negligence. Concerning damages, this means that if the fault for drunk-driving accident injuries may be apportioned between several parties – between both the intoxicated driver and the bar that served them – then damages will be distributed to the extent that each party was found to be at fault. If, for instance, a jury determines that a bar is only 50 percent at fault, it will just be liable for 50 percent of the damages.

Holding Dram Shops Accountable for Accidents or Injuries

If a drunk driver injures someone in an accident, they may be able to claim compensation. And not only from the driver, but also from whoever provided them more alcohol than they should have. If you are the victim of dram shop negligence, seek expert legal guidance right away. Speak with an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney today at the Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A. Our firm provides dram shop law services and are here to assist you with your case. Call us at (973) 358-6134 for a free consultation.

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