• What is the “Dram Shop” Law in New Jersey?

    What is the “Dram Shop” Law in New Jersey?

    Posted on July 10, 2017 by Neil Durkin Law Offices

    Restaurant and bar owners should be well acquainted with the “dram shop” laws in New Jersey. This civil statute is the law in several states and allows claims to be filed against a business that served or sold alcohol to a person who later caused an accident due to the alcohol. The state aims to hold establishments responsible for the sale of alcohol as the effects can be devastating when the wrong person gets behind a wheel or causes an accident.

    The Dram Shop Law in New Jersey

    The exact statute is Section 2A:22A-4 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes. The law states that a person who has suffered an injury due to the actions of an intoxicated individual has the right to seek damages from the vendor that sold the substance if the following is true:

    • The person was visibly intoxicated when served or sold the alcohol.
    • The vendor served or sold alcohol to a minor (under the age of 21) and had reason to believe they were a minor.

    It is important to note that the person who caused the accident or injury is not able to file for damages, even if they were injured. This keeps the fault on the person who caused the accident, as they had the free will to not imbibe.

    An example of this law is if a woman stops at a bar after a long day. After she begins to slur her speech and can’t easily stand up, the bartender continues to serve her. The woman then gets in her car and slams into another car while driving home. The driver and passengers in the car the woman struck can file a claim against the bar since they continued to serve her. The woman, however, is also liable for her actions and therefore is not able to seek damages for being over-served.

    Social Host Liability

    Social hosts have a similar duty of care as bartenders. If a host has a party, they can be held responsible if someone becomes too intoxicated and causes injury or an accident. Under New Jersey law, the host can be held responsible if they provide alcohol to guests. In this case, provided can include self-service of alcohol and even alcohol that guests bring for themselves.

    Under this law, a person can seek damages if:

    • The person was visibly intoxicated and the host should have known.
    • These beverages were provided “under circumstances manifesting reckless disregard of the consequences.”
    • Such circumstances led to an unreasonable risk of harm for either individuals or property.
    • Injury or accident occurred in a vehicle that left the home of the host after the person had been provided with alcohol at the party.

    As with the dram shop law, the person who was intoxicated and caused the accident or injury is not able to file for damages after an accident, even if they are harmed.

    Damages and Time Limits for Lawsuits

    In both cases, damages are awarded as money damages that are paid either by the defendant or their insurer directly to the injured party and include:

    • Medical bills.
    • Lost wages.
    • Rehabilitation or therapy bills.
    • Property damage.
    • Value of household services or childcare that the injured person would have otherwise been able-bodied for.
    • Pain and suffering.

    In New Jersey, punitive damages can be sought as well. Unlike other damages, punitive damages are meant to punish a person for bad or extreme cases of wrongdoing. Just as with other personal injury cases, victims have only two years to file a lawsuit under state law.

    If you have been injured due to an accident caused by someone who was over-served either at an establishment or party, you deserve compensation. Contact us today at Durkin Law to talk to one of our New Jersey liquor liability lawyers about your case or call 856-330-6284 to reach our Cherry Hill, New Jersey offices.