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Automobile accidents involving drunk drivers are most likely to be the fault of the drunk driver, who lacked the capacity to drive with the level of care expected of an ordinary person behind the wheel. A person injured by a drunk driver may be able to recover compensation for the injuries and damages caused, although the amount recoverable may be limited by the policy limits of the driver’s liability insurance and personal assets.
There may be an additional source of compensation available to the injured plaintiff, however. New York’s Dram Shop laws make persons and businesses liable which sell alcohol to intoxicated persons who later injure another. The applicable laws are New York General Obligation Law sections 11-100 and 11-101, and Alcoholic Beverage Control section 65. Taken together, these laws create civil tort liability for knowingly causing intoxication or impairment by unlawful sale or furnishing or assisting in the procurement of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or a person who is actually or apparently under 21 years old.
Establishments which may be liable under the dram shop laws include liquor stores and other retail stores selling alcohol, as well as bars, restaurants and social clubs which serve alcohol. Traditionally, furnishing alcohol to another was not considered a “proximate cause” of an auto accident or other injury, because the act of consuming the alcohol by the driver or negligent actor was considered an intervening, superseding cause. Section 11-101, however, not only creates a cause of action but gives an injured plaintiff the right to recover actual damages as well as exemplary (punitive) damages.
Section 11-101 only applies when the person is visibly intoxicated and only in the context of a commercial sale. What about a social host who supplies liquor for free to guests at a party in the home? 11-101 would not apply. However, social hosts do have a common law duty to control and supervise intoxicated guests on their property or in an area under their control. This common law duty would probably not extend to a drunk driver who causes an accident after leaving the host’s property. However, the host could be liable for an accident or injury occurring on the property, such as from an assault or battery or negligent act that causes injury, or perhaps an automobile accident occurring on the property, if the property owner had the means to control or prevent the accident.
Attorney Leandros A. Vrionedes is an experienced new york dram shop lawyer who knows the law and works to maximize compensation for his clients by holding all responsible parties liable for the actions. If you have been hurt in an accident caused by a drunk driver or intoxicated person, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.