If a drunk driver causes an accident and injures you, you may sue that driver for your injuries. Additionally, you may also sue the bar or restaurant that served that person alcohol under the New Jersey dram shop law. Alternatively, if that drunk driver had just left a party at someone’s home, you may sue that person under New Jersey’s social host liability law. In either case, you need the help of experienced New Jersey dram shop attorneys.
New Jersey Dram Shop Law
Under the New Jersey dram shop law (N.J.S.A. 2A:22A), a person injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver may sue the bar, restaurant or other business that served the intoxicated driver. In order to succeed, the injured person will have to prove that the bar provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. In addition, the injured party must prove that the negligent service of alcohol contributed to the accident. Furthermore, the injured person will have to show that the accident was a foreseeable consequence of the improper service of alcohol.
A bar, liquor store, etc., also violates the New Jersey dram shop law if it sells alcohol to a minor, knowing that the minor was underage (under 21).
Under the New Jersey dram shop law, liability for injuries caused by the intoxicated person is not limited to car accidents. For instance, if the drunk person got in a fight and injured someone, that injured person could sue the bar that served the intoxicated brawler.
New Jersey Social Host Liability Law
New Jersey also has a social host liability statute (N.J.S.A. 2A:15). Under the social host liability law, a social host is a person hosting guests who does not have a liquor license and is not required to have such a license. Furthermore, the social host provides the alcohol legally to a person who is old enough to purchase alcohol.
A person injured by the drunk driver can prove liability against the social host in one of two ways. First, if the social host provided alcohol to a person who was visibly drunk in the host’s presence; under circumstances which created a foreseeable risk of harm to property or another person; and the host then failed to take reasonable care to avoid that risk. Under that scenario, if the intoxicated guest caused a motor vehicle accident which resulted in injuries to another, the injured person can hold the social host liable.
Second, liability can be shown against the social host if he provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person “under circumstances manifesting reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another.”
In this second scenario, if the drunk driver took a breathalyzer or similar test and had less than .10% alcohol in his blood, there is an irrebuttable presumption that the person tested was not visibly drunk in the host’s presence. Furthermore, the law holds that the host did not show a reckless disregard of the potential risks.
If the driver tested between .10% and less than .15%, there is a rebuttable presumption that the drunk person was not visibly intoxicated in the host’s presence and the host did not recklessly disregard the potential risks.
Under social host liability, “providing” alcohol to guests covers instances in which the guests serve themselves. Indeed, it even covers situations in which the guests drink their own alcohol they brought to the party.
Lastly, unlike the dram shop law, social hosts can only be liable for motor vehicle accidents.
Experienced New Jersey Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Attorneys
If a drunk driver injured you in an accident, the people or businesses that served alcohol to that driver may share responsibility for your injuries. Call us at 908-490-0444 at our Scotch Plains office or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey dram shop and social host liability lawyer. There is no attorneys’ fee charged to you unless we are successful in obtaining a recovery on your behalf.