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Popular New Jersey beach bar likely to face dram shop liability

In the aftermath of a serious or even fatal drunk driving accident, victims and families alike are understandably concerned about securing justice for everything that has transpired in both the criminal court system and the civil court system.

Regarding the latter, it’s important for people to understand that depending upon the circumstances, parties other the drunk driver may also be held financially responsible.

To illustrate, New Jersey’s dram shop laws expressly dictate that bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other establishments serving alcohol have a legal duty to serve their customers responsibly, meaning they can’t serve to people who are already visibly intoxicated. If a business breaches this duty and the intoxicated customer causes a car accident, it can potentially be held liable for damages.

Interestingly, dram shop laws were recently in the headlines following a deadly drunk driving accident in Bergen County.

Back on August 16, a 26-year-old adjunct psychology professor was killed in a head-on collision after driving the wrong way down Route 18 South in Old Bridge. While the 55-year-old driver struck by the 26-year-old survived the car crash, she broke nearly every bone from the neck down and is not expected to walk for at least a year.

While official results are still pending, preliminary police reports indicate that the young woman was previously driven by a friend to a popular bar in Point Pleasant Beach, where she apparently proceeded to drink from roughly 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., ordering both screwdrivers and vodka shots.

At some point, reports say she made her way to the parking lot of the establishment and discovered a sport utility vehicle with the keys left in the ignition that was the same model as her own vehicle. It is believed she mistook the car for her own and then attempted to make the fateful drive home.

(Police later determined that the sport utility vehicle belonged to a family spending the day at the beach who had been instructed by parking lot attendants to leave the keys in the vehicle.)

An attorney representing the 55-year-old driver, who is both a nurse and grandmother, has already expressed his intent to file a lawsuit on behalf of his client holding the bar where the 26-year-old was drinking liable for overserving her and allowing her to take the car from the parking lot.

“There are zero safety procedures in place at [the bar],” he said. “Are they criminally responsible? Maybe not. But they’re certainly civilly responsible, or a jury is going to have to tell me that they’re not. They could put a policy in place to prevent a horrific death like this.”

Stay tuned for updates …

It’s extremely important for people who have suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by a drunk driver to understand that they do have rights and that they can hold those who caused them unimaginable harm accountable in a court of law.

Source: The Asbury Park Press, “Police: Driver in wrong-way Old Bridge crash was drinking vodka at [bar] all day,” Bob Makin, August 30, 2013

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