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Businesses that serve alcohol can be held liable in car accidents

Without a doubt, drunk driving accidents are preventable. However, even though drinking and driving is considered to be a choice, establishments that continue to serve alcohol to customers who appear "visibly intoxicated" might bear some of the responsibility under New Jersey's dram shop liability laws if patrons are involved in car accidents. For example, a Jersey Shore bar recently pleaded no contest regarding a state enforcement action and will have to pay $500,000 in fines and suffer a 30-day suspension for serving alcoholic beverages to a patron who left the bar and was involved in a collision. Separately, the bar could face claims for financial liability in any civil action that may be filed as a result of that accident.

The beachfront bar is accused of continuing to serve a 26-year-old woman on the night in question even though she was obviously intoxicated, according to an attorney for one of the victims. When she left the bar, she ended up stealing a car because the parking attendants left the keys in the ignition. The woman drove the wrong way down Route 18 and crashed into another vehicle.

She died as a result of the injuries she suffered. The other driver involved survived but suffered serious injuries. That person's current condition is unknown.

The injured victim retains the right to file a personal injury claim against the party or parties deemed responsible in this incident. Therefore, the bar could end up paying out more money in the form of financial damages to the injured victim if a New Jersey court determines that the bar served the woman under circumstances where it was apparent that she was visibly intoxicated. If that is established by appropriate evidence, the injured driver could be awarded a judgment against Martell's and the deceased driver's estate for monetary damages typically awarded in car accidents of this nature.

Source: nj.com, "State suspends Martell's liquor license for serving drunken patron who died in crash", Anthony G. Attrino, April 9, 2015

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