Everyone knows that it is dangerous and illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol. Most people also know that you can sue a drunk driver who causes an accident. But did you know that you might also be able to recover damages from the bar that served them?
The rule is called "dram shop liability." Here's how it works in New York.
When can a bar be held liable?
The law applies to licensed servers of alcoholic beverages. Typically, this means bars and restaurants, though the law could apply in other scenarios as well.
Legal liability exists when an establishment is negligent in serving alcohol to a customer. Generally, this means one of two things: (1) the customer was visibly intoxicated, but they were served alcohol anyway, or (2) the server knew or should have known that the customer was a minor.
How do you prove negligence?
Proving that a server was negligent isn't necessarily easy. No one wants to voluntarily admit their fault. You'll need to have a lawyer investigate the case.
For example, your lawyer may be able to locate witnesses who can testify that the patron was slurring and stumbling, but was served anyway. Or perhaps the lawyer will be able to show that the ID a minor used to gain access to the bar was an obvious fake that should have been detected.
The circumstances will vary in every case, but a good lawyer can work to uncover all possible leads.
What types of compensation are available?
The damages available in a dram shop case are similar to those that can be recovered from the drunk driver themselves. But, since the establishments generally have more resources than one driver's insurance policy can offer, there is a greater chance of the accident's victims being able to recover fair compensation for their injuries.
Some of the available damages include compensation for medical bills, lost wages and future earnings, property damage and pain and suffering.