This month, a family in North Carolina was awarded a $1.7 million verdict after a drunk driving accident caused the couple to suffer serious injuries and to lose their unborn child.
The verdict was not against the drunk driver who had caused the devastating accident but was instead against the restaurant bar that had served more than 10 drinks to the defendant prior to the crash. According to USA Today, the bar was held responsible for the accident and resulting injuries under North Carolina’s dram shop laws.
Many states throughout the U.S. have similar laws in place and these dram shop laws serve an important purpose in protecting the public. Our Boston dram shop lawyers want to draw attention to the dram shop laws that exist in the Commonwealth and to explain the impact these dram shop laws can have on your legal rights if you are the victim of a drunk driving accident.
Understanding Dram Shop Laws
In Massachusetts, the dram shop laws are found in Title XX, Chapter 138, Section 69 of the Administration of the Government. The law prohibits selling or delivering alcohol beverages to an intoxicated person on any premises.
If a bar, restaurant or other host serving alcohol provides a drink to someone who is intoxicated, the bar can become responsible if the intoxicated person causes an accident. Essentially, this makes the bar or host responsible for the actions of its patrons if they serve those patrons when they are drunk.
For those who are injured in a crash, the Massachusetts’ dram shop laws are very important. Drunk drivers can be held liable for paying for the cost of your injuries in a personal injury case, but they may not have sufficient funds to pay the entire cost of your damages, especially when factoring in medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress or loss of companionship in the event of a death. If you are able to take legal action against a bar or restaurant that serves the intoxicated patron, this provides another potential source of recovery as most businesses have general liability insurance policies in excess of $1 million.
The Controversy Surrounding Dram Shop Laws
Dram shop laws can impose significant legal liability on a bar or restaurant, as the recent large verdict in North Carolina shows. As a result, some criticize dram shop laws by claiming they are too vague or that they don’t encourage personal responsibility. After all, it may be hard to determine when a person is too intoxicated to serve and it ultimately should be the responsibility of the drunk patron to know when he has had enough to drink.
Despite the controversy, however, dram shop laws serve a very important purpose and could potentially save lives. If a bartender, server, bar or club takes responsibility and stops someone from drinking when he might not be aware of how drunk he is, this could potentially save a life. Drunk driving is so dangerous and the potential costs so high, that bars or restaurants who are in a position to potentially stop a drunk driver should be held accountable if they fail to do so.
If you or someone in your family has been involved in a drunk driving car crash, call the Law Office of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call (617) 777-7777.
Massachusetts Going too Easy on Drunk Drivers, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog, November 14, 2012
Massachusetts DUI Accidents a November-December Risk, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog, November 3, 2012