New York City’s bar, club, and restaurant scene needs no introduction – it’s famously known as The City That Never Sleeps for a reason. Queens offers a quieter alternative to the high octane environments found in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but it’s not uncommon for patrons to drink more than they can handle. Unfortunately, some of these overly intoxicated people choose to drive and end up seriously injuring or even killing others in car accidents. When this happens, victims may have recourse by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the alcohol vendor.
Alcohol Vendor Liability For Drunk Driving Accidents
New York is one of 43 states (and the District of Columbia) with dram shop laws, which allow victims who have been injured by drunk drivers to sue the establishment which served the driver alcohol if the driver was visibly intoxicated.
Dram shop laws also apply when a business serves a minor, who then causes an auto accident.
In some instances, victims of violent assaults may also hold establishments liable if they continued to serve the attacker after they were visibly intoxicated.
These laws vary from state to state, but New York has some of the most strict laws in the nation. Businesses which continue to serve visibly intoxicated patrons often face lawsuits when one of those patrons gets behind the wheel and hurts someone else.
How Do You Prove Fault In A Dram Shop Lawsuit?
Alcohol vendors have a legal duty not to sell alcohol to restricted groups of people – specifically, visibly intoxicated patrons, minors, or someone who appears to be a minor without carding them. If you or a loved one has recently become the victim of a drunk driver, you may sue the establishment which supplied their alcohol, as long as the following points apply:
- The person who injured you was intoxicated at the time of the incident
- This person was unlawfully sold alcohol, either because they were visibly intoxicated or under 21 years of age
- This alcohol sale directly caused or contributed to that person’s intoxication
Proving visible intoxication can be difficult. A resourceful attorney can work to gather evidence of this by finding witnesses, obtaining security camera footage, and other methods.
How Is “Visibly Intoxicated” Defined?
It’s difficult to come up with one set definition for visible intoxication. It’s usually up to the bartender and other employees to look out for common warning signs and determine if a patron needs to be cut off from drinking more. However, this can be a challenge because not everyone exhibits the same characteristics when they’re drunk. Management for alcohol-serving establishments should train employees to recognize some of the common warning signs and to err on the side of caution by not serving someone even if they suspect that they are visibly intoxicated.
There are several warning signs that, when combined together, could mean that someone could be visibly intoxicated:
- Red or bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty standing, walking, or sitting
- Spilling drinks
- Falling asleep at the bar
- Loud and obnoxious speech/behavior
These are just a few of the most common signs, but there are countless others. Experienced bartenders and hospitality staff should know when someone has had too much to drink and when to cut someone off.
How Can Victims & Families Seek Justice?
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, you’re probably feeling angry and looking for answers. It’s important to seek justice in all possible ways. The criminal justice system will punish the driver for the pain they’ve caused, but this is only one piece of the puzzle. These injuries are costly and can have devastating effects which could last months, years, or even a lifetime.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers are here to help you uncover all possible forms of compensation. You’re permitted to sue a drunk driver directly for their negligence, which can help with some of your expenses. But lawsuits against bars, restaurants, and other establishments are much more lucrative. These businesses generate a ton of revenue in Queens and can be held liable for very large verdicts and settlements. These two types of lawsuits are not mutually exclusive either – you’re permitted to sue both the drunk driver and the establishment which continued to serve them despite visible intoxication.