Restaurant and Bar Liability under North Carolina Dram Shop Act

As the response time of a drunk driver is appreciably slowed, they are often unable to apply their brakes or take evasive maneuvers to prevent or minimize a collision.  As a result, drunken driving accidents can be particularly violent and can lead to life-changing injuries.  If you or a family member has been seriously injured due to the negligence of an intoxicated driver, you may regret to find out that he or she does not have enough insurance coverage to even cover your medical bills, let alone your lost wages and pain and suffering.  In North Carolina, many drivers carry only the minimum limits of $30,000.00 per claimant, per accident.

In situations where the drunk driver has insufficient policy limits, you and/or your attorney must look for alternative sources of recovery.  If your policy contains underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), this could be one such source.  Of course, even your UIM could be insufficient.  If so, your next step might be to investigate from where the at-fault driver received his or her alcohol. Under North Carolina’s “dram shop act,” a restaurant or bar can be held liable if it serves alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated and that person subsequently injures or kills someone in an automobile accident.  The restaurant can also be held responsible if it serves to a drunk minor who then injures or kills someone in a collision.  Social host liability can also apply in situations where a person or company over-serves the at-fault driver at a get-together or party.

Dram shop liability can be difficult to prove without an immediate, early investigation.  It is highly dependent upon the testimony of witnesses who may quickly forget facts and the preservation of any video or photographs.  However, if you can prove dram shop liability, it can provide a significant extra source of a recovery.  A family in Charlotte recently won a nearly $1.7 million verdict in a dram shop case after a restaurant over-served a patron who then drove his automobile and caused a head-on collision.  The collision caused serious injuries to the parents and caused the pregnant mother to lose her child.  It was a tragic story but, hopefully, served as a lesson to restaurants and bars that over-serving patrons simply to increase profits is not acceptable.

If you or a family member has been injured in a serious drunken driving automobile accident, and potentially have a dram shop claim, call the Raleigh personal injury attorneys of Maginnis Law at 919.480.8526 (Shawn Howard) or 919.526.0450 (Edward Maginnis). Our firm offers free consultations and evaluations and will travel to meet with you and your family.  We are able to handle drunken driving cases throughout North Carolina but generally focus our practice on eastern North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Fayetteville, Greenville, Sanford, Wilmington, and Greensboro. Maginnis Law also offers a contingency arrangement such that you and your family pay no attorneys’ fees unless and until we recover on your behalf.  To send a confidential email inquiry, please use our contact page.