When Is a Bar Responsible for Damages Caused by Drunk Driving?

Time for new DUI laws in New Jersey?

On October 1, 2011, an elderly couple were out driving on Clifton Street in Westfield, New Jersey. As the two drove through the intersection with Tice Place, a motorist ran a stop sign and barreled into the couple’s vehicle. The resulting crash claimed the life of the man driving his girlfriend down Clifton Street, yet the woman and the driver of the other vehicle survived. Now a court verdict could render the driver and the bar responsible for the drunk driving crash.

Can a Bar Be Held Responsible for a Drunk Driving Crash?

The 32-year-old man driving the car that ran a stop sign was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Before the crash, he had been at The Office in Cranford, reportedly drinking beer. However, earlier that night, he had also been drinking at the Jolley Trolly in Westfield. This opened The Office to potential dram shop liability.

In New Jersey, if an establishment serves a patron alcohol while that person is “visibly intoxicated”, then that establishment can be held responsible for any injuries caused by that patron if they cause a crash. And this is what a lawsuit filed by the 61-year-old survivor against the driver and The Office claimed. Her lawsuit claimed she suffered a brain bleed as well as brain injuries that resulted in cognitive issues that prevented her from continuing her career as a secretary. The drinking establishment argued that the woman was not suffering symptoms as a result of the crash, but was actually suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The jury did not agree.

On February 8th, a jury found that the 32-year-old driver was 60 percent at fault for the crash, while The Office was found to be 40 percent responsible. It awarded an overall sum of $3.5 million to the woman who survived the crash, and the bar’s portion of that verdict came out to $1.4 million plus interest.

When it comes to drunk driving accidents, the law is clear. If you drink and drive, you will go to jail, but these criminal proceedings rarely compensate victims for their injuries and damages. That’s why it is so important to call an attorney after falling victim to the drunken negligence of another driver. An attorney knows how to get victims the compensation they need, and they know what legal processes are available to get the job done.

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