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Dram shop laws and drunk driving accident cases

If you were hurt by a drunk driver, you might have heard your attorney reference the term "dram shop." Dram shop laws are special laws enacted to hold sellers of alcohol legally responsible for injuries, deaths and financial damages that arise from their irresponsible sale of alcohol to highly-intoxicated customers. In addition to dram shop laws, social host liability laws exist to prevent the hosts of parties from giving their guests an irresponsible amount of alcohol, and then letting them drive home.

The legal term "dram shop law" stems from the name for old-English drinking establishments during the 1700s that sold gin in spoonfuls or "drams." Dram shop laws are not criminal laws; the courts enforce them through civil proceedings. They allow the victims of DUI crashes -- and family members of deceased victims -- to pursue financial compensation from the bars and/or party hosts who served too much alcohol to the drunk driver in their accident cases.

When a plaintiff prevails in a dram shop case, the damages will usually be split between both the drunk driver who caused the accident and the drinking establishment that supplied the driver with alcohol. For example, a famous dram shop case in New Jersey ended in an award of $135 million for the family of a child paralyzed in a 1999 DUI crash. The driver, who got drunk at a New York Giants game, shared liability for the award with a concessionaire from Giants' Stadium.

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a New York drunk driving accident, you might be able to get money to seek financial compensation via dram shop laws. Be sure to discuss this strategy with your lawyer to evaluate whether dram shop laws could be useful in your claim for damages.

Source: FindLaw, "Dram Shop Laws," accessed June 09, 2017

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