The dictionary defines a dram shop as any establishment that serves alcoholic beverages. Traditionally, a dram is an 18th century measurement of a small unit of liquid. In New Jersey, Dram Shop Laws were enacted making it unlawful to sell alcohol to people “actually or apparently” under the age of 21 and to people who are “visibly intoxicated.” These laws address accidents that happen as a result of the improper sale of alcohol by vendors. An example of such a law might work like this:
George stops at a local bar and has several drinks. He clearly has too much and is slurring his speech and wobbling on the stool, but the bartender continues to serve him. George decides to go to the bathroom, and literally, runs into Tiffany, knocking her down. She is badly injured and must go to the hospital. Tiffany can sue George for causing personal injury, and she can also bring a claim against the bar for serving George while he was visibly intoxicated.
Social Host Liability Laws
New Jersey also has enacted the Social Host Liability Law. This law allows an injured person to sue a social host who served an already intoxicated guest. The injured party must prove the following three things:
- The intoxicated guest was in the presence of the host.
- The circumstances created an “unreasonable risk” of harm to life or property.
- The injury was caused by the accident of the intoxicated guest who was served by the host.
In another version of the above example, George was intoxicated at a friend’s party and the host observed, but didn’t intervene. George drives and hits Tiffany, who is injured in the auto accident.
Proponents of Dram Shop Laws
Many believe these laws have helped reduce alcohol-related accidents. Public awareness has focused on not over-serving alcohol and on decreasing alcohol consumption. Additionally, dram shop and social host liability laws have reduced fatal crashes, especially for those under the age of 21.
Damages and Lawsuits
Dram shop and social host liability suits are expressed in terms of money damages. The most common damages are:
- Medical and hospital bills
- Therapy bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
In New Jersey, you may also sue for punitive damages as well as compensation. Punitive damages are intended to punish individuals and include negligence, recklessness and intentional bad behavior. Additionally, there is a two year limit on filing these types of cases.
Consult an Experienced Attorney
If you are injured as a result of a dram shop or social host liability situation, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The Law Office of Andrew S. Maze understands the stress and pain that can come from a drunk driving accident. They will do everything to hold the driver responsible for their actions. If it’s determined that the establishment served the person too much alcohol, or if the driver was underage at the time of the accident, they will be held responsible, too.