Dram Shop / Alcohol

New Jersey Dram Shop Lawyers

Obviously, we are but one of many firms who work on car accident cases. But note that a case is much, much different when the car crash was caused by a drunk driver – the lawyer that you choose must be familiar with the laws and important issues involved in a “Dram Shop” case.

The New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:22A-1 et. seq., also known as the Dram Shop Act, is a law that protects injured people from those who irresponsibly serve alcohol to minors and those who are already drunk, or at least too impaired to drive a car. This is an important addition to the general laws of automobile negligence, which basically obligate you to prove that the other driver did something wrong and caused the accident. Everyone who is licensed to sell alcohol could be liable under the Dram Shop Act. This does not just include bars and restaurants, but also vendors who cater alcoholic beverages at temporary events, like festivals, fairs, weddings, etc. If a bar tender – or other employee – serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, the company could be responsible if that person then drives a car and hurts someone in a car accident. This is the most basic type of Dram Shop claim.

Someone who is not licensed to sell alcohol may also be liable – like a social host who throws a party – but the law is much more relaxed in such cases. Basically, the host will not be liable unless the host himself physically hands alcohol (of car keys) to someone whom an average person would recognize as drunk. This is very different from commercial establishments, since a bar tender should be trained to recognize a visibly intoxicated person. For example, a bar tender should recognize that a customer with a 0.12% Blood Alcohol Content is intoxicated, but a social host who is mingling at a party may not recognize that his guest is already drunk and in no condition to drive.

But a defendant may also be liable even if the alcohol is self-served and not handed to the patron by a bartender or other employee. For example, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling held that “if a licensed server allows the self-service of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person who then causes an auto accident proximately related to his intoxicated condition, it can be held accountable under the act.” But the drunk driver was not observed to be visibly intoxicated at the event, despite an autopsy that revealed a .181 BAC (blood-alcohol content) level. And based on the lack of visible intoxication, the jury held that the defendant was not liable for the fatal New Jersey car accident.

Some bars, clubs, and lounges provide valet parking for their customers. Although the valet company is not actually serving alcohol, they are holding car keys for people who are likely to be drinking and driving. For this reason, a parking valet may also be liable if they give car keys to a visibly drunk driver. In fact, there have been some very large settlements and verdicts in New Jersey cases against a parking valet. New Jersey is also one of the states that allows the drunk driver to sue the bar that served him the alcohol, if he was visibly drunk, was served more alcohol, drove while drunk, and injured himself.

Another critical issue regarding the No Fault Law concerns the issue of the Lawsuit Threshold or Verbal Threshold – the portion of the insurance law that prohibits most drivers from suing for pain and suffering unless they are seriously injured. In a Dram Shop suit where an innocent person is hurt by a drunk driver, the drunk driver may be able to raise the Verbal Threshold as a defense, but the bar that served the drunk driver is not able to raise this defense. As such, an injured plaintiff hurt in a car accident may be able to sue for pain and suffering for even minor injuries and collect money from the bar or tavern.

Finally, it’s important to note that Dram Shop liability is not limited to car accident cases. While drunk driving is a serious issue in New Jersey, the courts in New Jersey recognize that it is foreseeable that a visibly intoxicated person may injure themselves by tripping and falling , or by getting into a fight .

As an aside, you may be thinking, “what exactly is a dram shop?” Obviously, it’s a shop that sells drams! So what exactly is a dram? Historically, it was a unit of measure used by apothecaries – the old word for pharmacist. A dram equals 60 grains, which is about 1/8 of an ounce. A liquid dram is the liquid serum made from the 60 grains, which is a portion, equal to about 3.5mL. Over the years, this measure fell out of style for pharmacists, but bars and tavern adopted the liquid dram as a measure for dispensing liquor. But as the saying goes today, a dram is unit of measure for liquor that is equal to the amount that the bar tender likes you.

Dram Shop Lawyer Approach (Why Us?)

At Raff & Raff, we help people injured in car accidents and aggressively protect our clients’ rights. Part of what we is to investigating all potentially liable parties, including a bar or valet who allowed a drunk person to get behind the wheel and cause injuries. Our decades of experience allow us to skillfully represent clients in this area, which is wrought with complicated legal issues. The Dram Shop Act allows an injured person to sue a bar, restaurant, or even a social host who throws a party, even though they were not directly involved in the accident. But there are a host of subtleties that can separate a winning case from a losing case. And it’s important that your lawyers can correctly identify whether you have a valid Dram Shop claim – while New Jersey law only requires drivers to carry $15,000 in liability insurance (and many drivers have only the minimum), bars, restaurants, and private homeowners will almost always have much, much more insurance coverage.

Dram Shop Lawyer Free Consultation

If you have been injured in a car crash involving alcohol, DUI/DWI, etc. and would like to know whether you have a case against the person who hit you or the bar that served the alcohol, you should contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our attorneys. We have been protecting the rights of people injured in car accidents since 1922, and we are very experienced with alcohol-related accident cases, especially in Passaic County, Bergen County, Essex County, Union County, and Hudson County, where our attorneys regularly appear in court and regularly interact with the lawyers for the insurance companies.

Remember, the insurance companies have teams of skilled attorneys who are aggressively representing their interests, and you should too.

Raff & Raff, LLP
Attorneys at Law
30 Church Street
Paterson, NJ 07505

Tel: (973) 742-1917
Fax: (973) 742-2454


Based in Paterson, New Jersey, Raff & Raff, LLP services clients in the communities of Bloomingdale, Clifton, Haledon, Hawthorne, Little Falls, Passaic, Paterson, Pompton Lakes, Prospect Park, Ringwood, Totowa, Wanaque, Wayne, West Milford, Woodland Park, Allendale, Alpine, Bergenfield, Bogota, Carlstadt, Cliffside Park, Closter, Cresskill, Demarest, Dumont, East Rutherford, Edgewater, Elmwood Park, Emerson, Englewood, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, Franklin Lakes, Garfield, Glenn Rock, Hackensack, Hasbrouck Heights, Haworth, Hillsdale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Leonia, Little Ferry, Lodi, Lyndhurst, Mahwah, Maywood, Midland Park, Montvale, Moonachie, New Milford, North Arlington, Northvale, Norwood, Oakland, Old Tappan, Oradell, Palisades Park, Paramus, Park Ridge, Ramsey, Ridgefield, Ridgewood, River Edge, River Vale, Rochelle Park, Rockleigh, Rutherford, Saddle Brook, Saddle River, Teaneck, Tenafly, Teterboro, Waldwick, Wallington, Westwood, Wood-Ridge, Woodcliff Lake, Wyckoff, Belleville, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Orange, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Livingston, Maplewood, Millburn, Montclair, Newark, North Caldwell, Nutley, Roseland, Verona, Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, Secaucus, Kearney, Harrison, North Bergen, Weehawken, Elizabeth, Linden, Plainsfield, Rahway, Union, Scotch Plains, Clark, Cranford, Hillside, Westfield, Roselle, and surrounding areas.