When someone is injured in a drunk driving accident, the first instinct is often to seek compensation from the intoxicated driver. Although the driver is certainly one of the sources from which you can recover damages, there may be others. In MA, dram shop liability laws allow victims to seek compensation from a business that over-serves alcohol to an intoxicated person.
A “dram shop” is a business that sells alcohol, and may include bars, nightclubs, social clubs, sporting venues, and liquor stores. Historical note – the term dram shop comes from alcohol’s traditional unit of measure, the dram. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver who was over-served.
Last year, an Oregon man filed a $3.9 million wrongful death lawsuit against the driver that injured him and killed his father, as well as against the bar that served the visibly-intoxicated driver. The fatal accident was initially a hit and run, but police eventually tracked down the driver. In addition to the driver’s own negligence, the lawsuit alleges that the bar was negligent in over-serving her.
Dram Shop Responsibilities
Those who serve alcohol – bartenders, servers, and liquor store clerks, to name a few – have a responsibility to determine when a patron is visibly intoxicated. They are required to observe slurred speech and other associated behaviors. To do so, they must receive proper training, the provision of which is a requirement of the establishment’s owner. Dram shops in MA typically carry liability insurance to protect themselves in the event that an intoxicated driver leaves their establishment and causes an accident, or in any way harms another.
Wrongful Death Claims and Dram Shops
When a dram shop over-serves a patron and someone is injured as a result, the victim can sue for damages, including pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other associated costs. If someone is killed, the victim’s family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the intoxicated driver and the dram shop. In a wrongful death lawsuit, medical expenses may be recovered, as well as damages for funeral costs, the loss of the victim’s income, and loss of consortium. A Boston wrongful death attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve lost a loved one to another’s negligence.
Social Host Laws
In MA, it is against the law to allow a minor (anyone under the age of 21) to consume alcohol on your property. If you are caught doing so, you may face criminal penalties under MA’s social host laws. However, social host laws differ from dram shop laws in that a social host cannot be liable if a guest – adult or minor – becomes intoxicated and harms another. A dram shop case is a civil case in which a business is sued for over-serving someone who, in turn, causes harm to another. A social host case, on the other hand, is a criminal case in which a social host is charged with serving an underage guest on their property. Continue reading