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Retailer responsibility following a drunk driver accident

New York is full of bars, restaurants, grocery stores and other establishments that sell alcohol. When a patron leaves an alcohol retailer, many believe that the establishment has no responsibility for that person's actions after he or she is out the door. Thankfully, due to dram shop laws, this is not necessarily the case. An alcohol retailer may, under the right circumstances, be held partially responsible for the actions of a drunk driver.

The dram shop act was passed as a social liability law. Its job is to deter establishments from negligently serving or selling alcohol. What does that mean? It means that retailers have to set limits on how much they serve; it means that employees need to recognize the signs of impairment and refuse sale; and it means that actions need to be taken to prevent a drunk patron from getting behind the wheel of a car.

Dram shop laws vary by state. But generally speaking, in order to hold an establishment accountable for damages following a drunk driving accident one will have to prove a few key things. These typically include:

  • Proof of alcohol sale
  • Proof that the sale contributed to the driver's intoxication
  • Proof that the sale of alcohol resulted in the injury or death of another

If evidence of the above can be provided, and negligence established to the satisfaction of the court, the alcohol retailer in question may be ordered to pay compensation to the victim or his or her surviving family members. Unfortunately, this often proves to be a difficult task. An experienced attorney can assist one who has been injured by or lost a loved one to the actions of a drunk driver in filing and litigating the claims appropriate for his or her case in a New York civil court.

Source: FindLaw, "Dram Shop Laws", Accessed on May 2, 2017

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