Can You Sue a Bar If You Are Injured by a Drunk Driver?

Can You Sue a Bar If You Are Injured by a Drunk Driver?Unfortunately, even though there are laws against drinking and driving, many drivers still choose to drink and then get behind the wheel. This is extremely dangerous as it places every individual on the roadway, including motorists and pedestrians, at risk of a serious accident and catastrophic injuries.

If you are a victim of a drunk driving accident in Cherry Hill, and you learn that the driver was drinking at a bar or restaurant somewhere, you may be able to hold that establishment partially liable for your injuries. This is because New Jersey has something called “dram shop” laws. According to N.J. Stat. § 2A:22A-5, “a person who sustains personal injury or property damage as a result of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages by a licensed alcoholic beverage server may recover damages from a licensed alcoholic beverage server.” However, there are specific conditions for the dram shop law, such as:

  • The server must be proven to be negligent.
  • The losses suffered must be caused by the alcoholic beverages that were negligently served.
  • The losses must be a “foreseeable consequence” of the alcoholic beverages that were negligently served.

The law also states that “a licensed alcoholic beverage server shall be deemed to have been negligent only when the server served a visibly intoxicated person, or served a minor, under circumstances where the server knew, or reasonably should have known, that the person served was a minor.”

What is a dram shop case?

Say a person is involved in a car accident with a drunk driver who just left a bar, club, or restaurant. The bar, club, or restaurant served the drunk driver alcohol until they became intoxicated and continued to serve them alcohol even after it was noticeably obvious that they were intoxicated, which led to them causing the drunk driving accident. As a result, the bar or restaurant may be responsible for the accident.

Does suing the bar or establishment mean that the drunk driver will not be held accountable for the accident?

Some clients worry that if they pursue a lawsuit against the bar or establishment that the drunk driver will get off scot-free. However, that is not the case. You still have the ability and should sue the drunk driver who hit you. Filing a lawsuit against the bar or establishment is like an extra layer of protection as they were likely responsible for the accident as well.

How do you prove that the drunk driver was visibly intoxicated before causing the accident?

NJ’s dram shop laws mention that in order to hold the bar or establishment that negligently served the alcohol liable for the accident, you must be able to prove that the individual was visibly intoxicated. This means that you cannot simply show that the drunk driver had a few drinks at the bar, but, instead, you must prove that the drunk driver had visible signs and symptoms of intoxication and was still provided with alcoholic beverages. Here are some of the various ways our Cherry Hill drunk driving lawyers they may go about doing this:

  • Reaching out to eyewitnesses who may have seen the drunk driver at the bar or establishment before the accident
  • Hiring an expert witness who has experience or knowledge of how intoxicated individuals act and can explain that it is likely that the individual was clearly intoxicated while being served drinks at the bar or establishment
  • Obtaining surveillance footage of inside the bar or out in the parking lot, showing that the individual was visibly intoxicated before or while being served drinks

When a person is visibly intoxicated, they may have slurred speech, bloodshot or red eyes, appear to be agitated or aggressive, be loud and disorderly, and trip or stumble a lot. Your lawyer will work endlessly to find ways to prove that this is the type of behavior the drunk driver exhibited at the establishment as they continued to provide them with drinks.

What if the drunk driver left a private home, not a business?

Businesses are not the only ones who can be held liable for drunk drivers: In some cases, homeowners can, too. Under NJ Rev Stat § 2A:15-5.6, “social hosts” – AKA, homeowners, renters, and other hosts of social events – can be liable for personal injuries and/or property losses “from the negligent provision of alcoholic beverages by a social host to a person who has attained the legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages” if:

  • The social host willfully and knowingly provided alcoholic beverages either:
    1. To a person who was visibly intoxicated in the social host’s presence; or
    2. To a person who was visibly intoxicated under circumstances manifesting reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another; and
  • The social host provided alcoholic beverages to the visibly intoxicated person under circumstances which created an unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm to the life or property of another, and the social host failed to exercise reasonable care and diligence to avoid the foreseeable risk; and
  • The injury arose out of an accident caused by the negligent operation of a vehicle by the visibly intoxicated person who was provided alcoholic beverages by a social host.

And this is just for people who are legally old enough to drink. If you supply alcohol to someone under the age of 21 – even if you, yourself, are under the age of 21 – you can be held liable if they drive drunk.

If you have been hurt by a drunk driver in Cherry Hill, NJ, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the dram shop lawyers at Ferrara & Gable at your earliest opportunity. Our team will assess your situation and help you determine whether you should sue the bar or business that served alcoholic beverages to the drunk driver who caused your injuries. We take these cases very seriously and will do everything we can to help you obtain a fair compensation amount for your injuries, medical bills, and other losses. All you have to do is call our office or submit our contact form to set up your initial meeting with one of our attorneys today. Ferrara & Gable does not charge any legal fees until we successfully win your case and obtain the award amount that you deserve. We serve all of South Jersey.

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