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  • Writer's pictureAlexander J. Kemeny

How Common Are Drunk Driving Accidents and Who Can Be Held Responsible

         Being involved in a car accident because another driver chose to drink and drive can be a terrifying and life altering. If you or someone in your family was injured by a drunk driver, you deserve justice and accountability.

 

         Alcohol related accidents can have devastating effects, including lacerations, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, internal organ injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. They also cause several thousand deaths a year in the United States.

 

         According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration an average of about 37 people per day died in the United States in 2021 as a result of drunk-driving crashes — that's one person every 39 minutes. That same year, 210 fatal crashes that occurred in New Jersey, where alcohol and drug intoxication was the top “contributing factor” according to the New Jersey State Police.

 

         If you your loved one was injured by a drunk driver, it is important that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney as soon as possible. This will give the lawyer sufficient time to investigate the claim and all possible sources of compensation, including the driver who drove drunk as well the person or business who may have served the driver alcohol.

         If the driver was over-served alcohol, and then left a restaurant, bar, or other establishment licensed to serve alcohol, you may be able to hold the business liable for the accident. New Jersey has a dram shop law, which is known as “New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act,” N.J.S.A. § 2A:22A-1 – et seq., that imposes a liability on restaurants, bars, clubs, and liquor stores under certain conditions.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Accident

         To recover under compensation under the “New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act,” from a licensed alcoholic beverage provider in New Jersey, a person must show:

         1.  the server served a visibly intoxicated person, or served a minor, under circumstances where the server knew, or reasonably should have known, that the person served was a minor;

         2. the injury or damage was proximately caused by the negligent service of alcoholic beverages; and

​         3. the injury or damage was a foreseeable consequence of the negligent service of alcoholic beverages.

 

            A separate Act governs social host liability in New Jersey. It states:

 

a.    This act shall be the exclusive civil remedy for personal injury or property damage resulting from the negligent provision of alcoholic beverages by a social host to a person who has attained the legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages.
b.    A person who sustains bodily injury or injury to real or personal property as a result of the negligent provision of alcoholic beverages by a social host to a person who has attained the legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages may recover damages from a social host only if:
(1) The social host willfully and knowingly provided alcoholic beverages either:

(a) To a person who was visibly intoxicated in the social host's presence; or

(b) To a person who was visibly intoxicated under circumstances manifesting reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another; and
(2) The social host provided alcoholic beverages to the visibly intoxicated person under circumstances which created an unreasonable risk of foreseeable harm to the life or property of another, and the social host failed to exercise reasonable care and diligence to avoid the foreseeable risk; and
(3) The injury arose out of an accident caused by the negligent operation of a vehicle by the visibly intoxicated person who was provided alcoholic beverages by a social host.
c. To determine the liability of a social host under subsection b. of this section, if a test to determine the presence of alcohol in the blood indicates a blood alcohol concentration of:
(1)    less than 0.10% by weight of alcohol in the blood, there shall be an irrebuttable presumption that the person tested was not visibly intoxicated in the social host's presence and that the social host did not provide alcoholic beverages to the person under circumstances which manifested reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another; or
(2) at least 0.10% but less than 0.15% by weight of alcohol in the blood, there shall be a rebuttable presumption, that the person tested was not visibly intoxicated in the social host's presence and that the social host did not provide alcoholic beverages to the person under circumstances which manifested reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another. 

        N.J.S.A. § 2A:15-5.7 makes clear that  a person who was the legal age to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages when he was served alcohol by a social host, may not hold the social host responsible for injuries or damages he suffered on the basis that the social host was negligent in providing him the alcohol. However, the protection offered to social hosts under this statute does not apply when (a) the person drank was underaged or (b) when the claim is being brought on behalf of someone other than the drunk driver.

       Contact the attorneys at Kemeny, Ramp & Renaud, LLC if a drunk driver injured you or someone you love. Our firm fights for victims of drunk driving accidents and their families. Our attorneys provide free consultations for people injured as a result of drunk driving and other accidents. Call us at (732) 853-1725 to schedule a consultation.

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