A drunk driving accident can strip your future from you in a matter of seconds. One of these wrecks can leave you with permanent physical injuries that are expensive to treat and that wreak havoc on your emotional and psychological well-being.
In the aftermath of your accident, you might be worried about how you’re going to pay your outstanding bills, including your medical expenses, your mortgage, and even your utilities. You might not even be able to keep food on the table for long with the savings that you’ve accumulated.
Although you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver who harmed you, the sad reality is that they might not be able to pay you what you’re owed, even if a judge orders them to do so. That’s one reason why you may want to consider whether you can use New Jersey’s dram shop law to your advantage.
What is New Jersey’s dram shop law?
A dram shop law is a statute that seeks to hold alcohol-serving establishments accountable for the role that they play in a drunk driving accident. Many states, including New Jersey, have this kind of law on the books.
Under the applicable statute, you can only hold an establishment accountable if a reasonable person under the same or similar circumstances would have known or should have known that the individual in question was intoxicated at the time he was served additional alcoholic beverages. The establishment can be held liable for serving a minor who later causes an accident without any such additional showing.
How hard is it to establish dram shop liability?
Successfully suing an alcohol-serving establishment isn’t easy. But you shouldn’t throw up your arms in defeat and forego assessing the option altogether. After all, you might have strong legal arguments to support your position.
To start, you should speak to witnesses who work at or frequent the establishment in question. They may be able to tell you if the individual who caused your accident was exhibiting signs of intoxication while at the establishment and whether the establishment continued to serve him alcohol despite his presentation.
You might consider seeking out security footage from the establishment, too, which might show the patron’s demeanor and when he was served alcohol. Other options for gathering evidence include securing purchase receipts that show the date and time that alcohol was purchased and finding the driver’s statements regarding alcohol use, which may come from police reports.
Beware of time limitations
Remember that you only have a certain period of time during which you can bring your dram shop claim forward. That means that you can’t sit on your claim and hem and haw about whether pursuing a dram shop claim is right for you. Instead, you need to be proactive in assessing your situation and taking the action that’s right for you.