When a drunk driver hurts you in a crash, who is at fault? We imagine you know that the inebriated driver is liable, but did you know that the person who served the drinks might be responsible as well?
There are some rules under New Mexico alcohol laws that allow providers and servers to be sued for the harm caused by a drunk driver they served. These laws are called “dram shop laws.”
A dram shop lawyer from Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C. can help you hold accountable those who overserved the driver who harmed you. We are aggressive and experienced advocates who are ready to take any establishment to the mat for their irresponsible behavior.
Do I Have the Right to File a Dram Shop Claim?
If a drunk driver hits you, you probably know you can likely file a civil lawsuit against the driver. But you can also file a dram shop claim against someone who sold or served alcohol to the driver before the accident. The liable parties could include:
- Liquor stores, and
- Party hosts.
While any one of the individuals mentioned above might be obligated to pay your damages after an alcohol-fueled wreck, you cannot maintain a legal action against them unless you can prove certain circumstances existed when they served or sold liquor to the at-fault driver.
Liability for Businesses that Sell or Serve Alcohol
New Mexico alcohol laws hold businesses that serve or sell alcoholic beverages responsible for the actions of an inebriated person only if:
- The business provided alcoholic beverages to someone who was intoxicated,
- The intoxication of the person being served was reasonably apparent to an observer, and
- The business knew from the circumstances that the person receiving the alcoholic beverages was intoxicated.
Others hurt by the intoxicated person have the right to sue the business that sells or serves the alcohol. However, the intoxicated person does not have the right to sue the alcohol provider unless the provider acted with gross negligence and reckless disregard for the safety of the intoxicated person.
Liability for Party Hosts Who Serve Alcohol
Someone who hosts a social gathering could be liable for overserving a guest who subsequently harms someone while they are drunk. But the standard is relatively high. To hold a party host accountable, you have to prove that the host served the drinks with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Liability for Those Who Serve Alcoholic Beverages to Minors
Businesses and social hosts alike can be civilly liable for serving alcohol to a minor or helping a minor buy alcohol. But a social host who serves alcohol to a minor is not responsible under New Mexico’s liquor laws if:
- They are a legal guardian, parent, or adult spouse of the minor and serve the drinks in a controlled manner in a setting that is not licensed for alcohol sale or consumption; or
- The alcoholic beverage is part of a religious practice.
Making determinations regarding liability for serving alcohol to a minor or intoxicated person can be a nuanced and challenging process. Because of these nuances, any such claim is best handled by a dram shop attorney from Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C. We know this complex area of law well and can help your case go smoothly and resolve successfully.
Gathering Evidence for a Dram Shop Claim
In a successful dram shop claim, you need to prove that the defendant violated the law, and you need evidence to prove the amount of your damages. This evidence might include the following:
- Witness testimony,
- Medical records,
- Accident reconstruction reports,
- Wage records,
- Employment records,
- Photographs, and
- Blood or breath test records of the defendant.
You might be able to collect some of this evidence quite easily on your own. But, getting other evidence could require you to subpoena different establishments and witnesses or submit interrogatories to the defendant.
Gathering proof of the elements of your claim is often challenging, especially if you are recuperating from injuries caused by an intoxicated individual. But our dram shop lawyers can handle these tasks and prep your case strategically to give you the best chance at victory against all defendants.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Dram Shop Claim?
When you sue a business or social host for overserving someone who harms you, there are limitations on what you can recover in a lawsuit. The following caps on what you can win in a dram shop claim apply:
- You can win no more than $50,000 per occurrence for the death or bodily injury of one person,
- You can win no more than $100,000 per occurrence for the death or bodily injury of two or more people, and
- You can win no more than $20,000 per occurrence for property damage.
With our award-winning representation, we can help ensure that you receive the maximum amount of damages within these limits.
How Long Do I Have to File My Dram Shop Lawsuit?
No matter how strong your evidence against a defendant is, you need to make sure that you file your case on time to recover anything. The deadline for initiating your claim is called the statute of limitations, and the following limitations apply in dram shop cases:
- You have three years to file your claim if you suffered an injury, and
- You have four years to file your claim if you suffered property damage.
If you miss the deadline for filing your case, you might be forever barred from obtaining compensation.
Do I Need an Attorney in My Dram Shop Case?
Hiring an attorney to represent you in your dram shop lawsuit can be crucial to your success. An attorney can do the following for you while you recover:
- Accurately calculate the value of your case,
- Negotiate with the defendant’s insurance company,
- Research the liquor license of a defendant business,
- Gather the best evidence for your case,
- Timely file your lawsuit,
- Put you in touch with the best medical providers and repair people to address your losses, and
- Expertly argue your case before the court.
Facing an insurance company or defendant on your own can be a distressing and tricky process.
Insurance companies often try to minimize your injuries or push you to settle your case before you have a proper understanding of your injuries and other damages. One of our skilled attorneys can effectively push back on these tactics and hold the insurance company or defendant to account for every cent they owe you.
Contact Us Today
After suffering an injury in a drunk driving accident, we imagine you have countless questions. The lawyers of Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C. can give you all the answers you need and win all the compensation you deserve.
Over the years, our attorneys have received top honors from the legal community, and we are not afraid to get tough with defendants at the negotiation table or in court.
We also make sure that each of our clients receives personalized attention so that the relief they win addresses their unique needs. If you need a strong advocate in your corner, contact us today. You can reach us by phone or schedule an appointment on our website.