New York Dram Shop Law: Holding Establishments Accountable For Drunk Driving Accidents

On behalf of Pat Crispi at Keogh Crispi PC

On roadways throughout the United States, an alarming 30 people lose their lives in drunk driving car accidents each and every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, 10,228 people died in alcohol-impaired traffic accidents in 2010 alone.

With death tallies such as these, it is no wonder why state governments are doing whatever they can to curb the deadly epidemic of drinking and driving. For instance, legislatures nationwide are regularly increasing penalties for those convicted of drunk driving - including larger fines and revocation of drivers' licenses.

However, it is also important to note that in addition to criminal penalties, victims of drunk driving accidents can also seek remedies for their injuries in civil court. Indeed, victims of drunk driving accidents in New York can file claims for damages against the actual drunk driver that injured them - damages the can include medical expenses or even lost wages.

Additionally, if the drunk driver in question was over served alcohol in a New York bar or tavern prior to the car accident, then the bar or tavern that served the alcohol may also be liable for any injuries suffered as a result of the car accident. This particular form of legal responsibility is known as Dram Shop liability in New York.

New York's Dram Shop laws

Under New York law, it is illegal for bars, restaurants or taverns to sell or give alcohol to any of the following individuals:

  • Persons who are already visibly intoxicated.
  • Persons under the age of 21-year-old.
  • Persons who are known as habitual drunkards.

Furthermore, New York law expressly dictates that anyone injured by an intoxicated individual shall have a viable cause of action against the person or establishment that caused such intoxication by unlawfully selling, furnishing or assisting in procuring alcohol. Essentially, this means that bars and taverns may be held liable if they sell alcohol to an individual already visibly intoxicated - or under the age of 21 - and the individual leaves the bar and injuries a third party in a drunk driving accident.

In many New York Dram Shop cases, the question of what constitutes "visibly intoxicated" is critical. However, simply proving the intoxicated individual had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent when being served alcohol at a bar is typically not enough to establish visible intoxication in Dram Shop situations. For instance, proof regarding the individuals physical appearance or demeanor, or even expert testimony, generally must be offered to the court to show visible intoxication.

Seek assistance following a drunk driving accident

New York Dram Shop cases are not only complex but also fact intensive, which is why it is always best to seek the counsel of an experienced Dram Shop attorney if you have been injured by a drunk driver. A skilled attorney can review the circumstances of your accident and help determine all of the parties who may bear responsibility.