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“Dram Shop” Laws Help Victims of Drunk Driving Recover for Their Injuries

Posted in Auto Accidents

When a bar, club, or restaurant over-serves a customer to the point of intoxication, and then that customer goes on to cause a drunk driving accident, intuition tells us that the driver should not be the only one held responsible. In fact, there are laws in most states that allow for the victim of a drunk driving accident to look to the establishment that over-served the person who caused the accident for liability. These laws are historically called “Dram Shop laws.”

Roughly 30 states have these statutes, allowing an injured plaintiff or their representative to bring a suit against the party who sold alcohol to the alleged wrongdoer. Out of those 30 states, about 22 have statutory limitations regarding what degree of liability can be brought against the provider. New Mexico is one of the 22 states that limit the provider’s liability.

The New Mexico “Dram Shop” statute states that a party who sells or provides alcohol to an individual who caused an injury may be held liable if the plaintiff can meet very specific elements. First, the party must have actually served or sold the alcohol to a person who was intoxicated. That individual’s intoxication must also have been “reasonably” apparent to the person who provided them the alcohol, or the person must have known that the individual was intoxicated.

Under New Mexico law, the individual who was injured by the intoxicated party may bring a claim against the party who served that person alcohol. However, if the intoxicated person seeks contribution from the establishment, he will have to show that the employees at the establishment acted “grossly negligently” or “recklessly.”

New Mexico Supreme Court Rules on Dram Shop Issue after Fatal Motorcycle Accident

The New Mexico Supreme Court recently ruled on a drunk driving case arising from a 2006 motorcycle accident. According to the decision, the plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle when a van driver failed to notice a stop sign and crossed in front of the motorcycle.

Unfortunately, the motorcycle ended up colliding with the side of the van. The motorcycle driver was instantly killed, and the passenger/plaintiff was seriously injured. The passenger brought a suit against a restaurant corporation, alleging that they were also proximately responsible for the accident because they served the van’s driver to the point of intoxication just before the accident occurred.

When the suit was filed, the defendants claimed that the accident was because of a third party and not due to their negligence. The lower court and appeals court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the case. However, the Supreme Court of New Mexico found that early dismissal was improper and that the case should proceed to trial.

Have You Been Injured in New Mexico Because of Another’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of another, you should strongly consider retaining an attorney at the Fine Law Firm to assist you in your case. As the above case makes clear, there are many circumstances in which individuals other than the person that actually caused the accident may be held liable to the injured accident victim. It is important that you have an experienced and dedicated attorney to help you navigate this complex area of the law. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can help you seek the compensation you deserve for your serious injuries. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 505-243-4541 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maine Supreme Court Affirms Jury Verdict Denying Damages to Injured Neighbor, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2015.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Announces New Technology, Soon to Be Required on All Vehicles, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 10, 2015.