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Explaining dram shop liability

Most in Monmouth County likely understand that the decision to drink and drive is a personal one. Still, in the wake of a drunk driving accident, victims might rightly wonder how is that the drivers that hit them were allowed to reach the intoxicated states they were in in the first place. That may prompt further inquiry as to whether or not those who serve alcohol to drivers that cause accidents should share in the liability for the incident. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drunk driving accidents result in over $44 billion in losses annually in the United States. Having other avenues of liability may help accident victims in recovering the compensation needed to adequately handle their expenses.

Many states have adopted what is known as a "dram shop" law. These laws do indeed allow accident victims to assign vicarious liability to the establishments that had a hand in allowing a driver to get drunk. "Dram shop" refers to any commercial establishment that serves alcohol (the word "dram" is actually a unit of measurement once used in the sale of gin). Such an establishment may include any of the following: 

  • A restaurant
  • A bar or tavern
  • A concessionaire

New Jersey does indeed have its own dram shop law. According to Section 2A: 22A-5 of New Jersey's annotated statutes, to apply dram shop liability to a case, the following elements must be proven: 

  • An establishment served drinks to one who was already visibly intoxicated
  • Injuries or damages were proximately caused by the negligent service of such beverages
  • Said injuries or damages were a foreseeable consequence of such an action

Dram shop liability also applies in cases where an establishment served alcohol to a patron known to be a minor. 

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