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Boston Drunk Driving Injuries and Dram Shop Laws

According to a recent report from the Sun-Times Media Wire, a police officer in Indiana was conducting a traffic stop around 1:30 a.m. and standing outside of his cruiser when a jeep collided with his vehicle. The collision caused the vehicle to push him down on the pavement.

PoliceLights.jpgAfter crashing into the police car, the driver of the Jeep allegedly fled the scene but was arrested a short time later. During his arrest, police gave the driver a breath-alcohol test (breathalyzer), where it was determined he had a breath-alcohol content of .14 grams of ethanol per hundred milliliters of blood. The legal limit in every state pursuant to a federal regulation is .08. If the defendant’s score is accurate, he was driving with nearly twice the legal limit.

The defendant was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), leaving the scene of an accident (hit-and-run) and driving with a suspended license.

It is not a coincidence that many alcohol-related car crashes occur around the closing time of most bars. As your Boston drunk driving accident lawyer knows, it may be possible to bring a negligence action against a bar or restaurant that served the intoxicated driver under what is known as a dram shop law.

In a normal negligence case, the plaintiff must prove that defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, breached that duty and that the breach of the duty injured the plaintiff. If a drunk driver hits you, proving negligence is not normally all that difficult. Proving third-party negligence (on the part of the bar) is more challenging.

The reason it’s often worth it to pursue such a claim is that the drunk driver may not have adequate insurance coverage or enough personal assets to compensate you for the total extent of your losses. The bar that served the driver may have more than enough insurance coverage to compensate you for your loss. The question is how can the bar owner, who never stepped foot in the car, be liable for what a drunk driver did outside of his establishment? In other words, how does the plaintiff prove that that bar owner owed a duty of care toward the accident victim?

A dram shop law, such as the one in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, allows for a judge or jury to find as matter of fact that the bar owner did owe a duty of care to the injured driver. The law requires the bartender and his or her employees to use reasonable care not to serve an intoxicated person. They must also not knowingly serve a person who will be getting behind the wheel of car after drinking.

While it is obviously not possible for a bartender to prevent someone from drinking and driving every time, there are certain steps they can take to reasonably ensure it doesn’t happen, especially in the case of regular customers who they know will driving home from the bar. This is a very complex area of law that you should discuss with your attorney.

If you have been injured in a Boston drunk driving accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Chicago man charged with drunk driving in Hammond crash that left Indiana State Police trooper injured, August 2, 2014, Chicago Sun-Times
More Blog Entries:

Boston Drunk Drivers Not Threatened by Officers, June 12, 2013, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog