Dram Shop Liability in Drunk Driving Accidents

Pennsylvania and New Jersey Auto Accident Lawyers Explain Liability

When a drunk driver causes an accident, liability for that accident may extend beyond the person who chose to drink and drive. The bar or restaurant that served drinks to the drunk driver may also be responsible. Additionally, bartenders, liquor stores and essentially any other establishment that serves alcohol may also be liable for drunk driving accidents. This area of law is known as dram shop liability.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, the lawyers at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., will explore every potential source of liability so we can help you obtain maximum compensation for everything you have lost. We have significant experience handling dram shop lawsuits for clients throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other states.

What are the Responsibilities of Businesses Serving Alcohol Under Dram Shop Liability?

Many bars and restaurants promote over-consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, happy hours and super-sized drinks can have a deadly effect on highway safety, especially when these drinks are served to an already-intoxicated patron. Although the details may differ between states, dram shop liability laws hold these kinds of businesses responsible for their serving practices.

Under these laws, bars and restaurants cannot serve alcohol to people they either know or should know are intoxicated. If a business overserves and a car crash or other accident results, the business can be responsible for the damages. A bar or restaurant that serves alcohol to a minor is also liable for any damages that may result. Drunk driving accidents are the most common result of overserving. However, the alcohol vendor may also be responsible for injuries resulting from assaults and other accidents caused by drunk patrons.

In certain cases, social hosts may also be responsible if they over-serve guests at their home. A social host is any adult who hosts a party or gathering on private property where alcohol is available. Even if the host does not provide the alcohol, he or she may be responsible for any damages that result from intoxication. Homeowners insurance often covers injuries and damages that occur on the premises. However, social host liability laws vary from state to state.

What are the Dram Shop Laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?

Though there are a few exceptions, almost all states in the U.S. have some kind of dram shop law. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have laws which allow victims of drunk driving accidents and other alcohol-related injuries to seek compensation from bars and restaurants. They are:

  • Pennsylvania Dram Shop Liability. According to the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, a vendor may be held accountable for injuries and damages resulting from a patron’s intoxication. A victim may file a personal injury case against an establishment if employees sold drinks to a person who was “visibly intoxicated.” Additionally, a business that sells alcohol to a minor is also accountable for injuries and damages that result. This is true regardless of whether or not the minor was obviously drunk. Pennsylvania law limits social host liability to only cases involving minors. If a host serves alcohol to someone who is underage, and then that minor causes an injury to someone else, the host is liable. However, there are no regulations holding social hosts accountable for the actions of intoxicated adults.
  • New Jersey Dram Shop Liability. According to the New Jersey Revised Statutes, alcohol vendors are responsible for injuries and damages their patrons cause. Like Pennsylvania, New Jersey businesses are only accountable in this way if they serve to “visibly intoxicated” guests or minors. New Jersey’s social host liability laws hold hosts accountable for injuries caused by any intoxicated guests, adults and minors. This liability applies if the host knew about the guest’s obvious intoxication. The host may also be liable in certain other circumstances specifically for injuries resulting from a guest’s drunk driving accident.

In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the statute of limitations on dram shop claims is two years.

Hit by a Drunk Driver? Call Our Auto Accident Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one sustained injuries as a result of a car crash caused by drunk driver, our attorneys are here to help. Prompt investigation of dram shop claims are essential. We can collect and preserve valuable evidence such as parking lot videos and witness statements. There may be strict deadlines for filing a claim, so contact our auto accident lawyers as soon as possible.

Contact us today to speak with one of our dram shop liability attorneys in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Cherry Hill, New Jersey. We accept cases nationwide and also handle cases on a contingency fee basis. You will not have to pay us unless we get results for you.