Bars may be liable following North Carolina drunk driving accidents

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, every 52.6 minutes a person is injured or killed in an alcohol-related car accident. While the drunk drivers involved in these accidents will likely face criminal liability for their actions, it is important to note that they may also be held liable in North Carolina civil court for any injuries or damages they cause.

However, civil liability does not always end with the drunk driver, as in the case of Dram Shop lawsuits in North Carolina. In particular, victims of North Carolina drunk driving accidents can use Dram Shops laws to hold bars and taverns liable for their injuries if the establishments negligently sell or serve alcohol to an individual who then gets behind the wheel and causes the accident.

Specifics of North Carolina Dram Shop laws

Under North Carolina law, it is illegal for a bar or tavern to sell alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 21. Furthermore, North Carolina statutory law expressly states that any injured party can seek damages against a bar or tavern if:

  • The bar, or its employee, negligently sells or furnishes alcohol to an underage person.
  • The consumption of this alcohol causes or contributes to an underage driver being subjected to an impairing substance.
  • And, the underage driver's negligent operation of a vehicle while impaired is the proximate cause of the injury to the victim.

Consequently, if an underage driver is negligently served alcohol in a bar, and then injures a third party in a drunk driving accident, the victim may attempt to seek damages against the bar - although there is a statutory cap of $500,000 for the victim.

Importantly, North Carolina law also allows for common law Dram Shop liability when a bar or tavern sells or gives alcohol to a patron that is already intoxicated, regardless of age. Specifically, this form of liability may apply when a third party is injured after being in a drunk driving accident with an individual who was previously served alcohol at a bar even though the servers knew, or should have known, that he or she was already intoxicated.

In the end, establishing Dram Shop liability can be very difficult as each situation is heavily dependent on the facts. Accordingly, if you or loved one has been injured by a drunk driver and you want to ascertain who may be liable, it is often best to seek the advice of an experienced car accident attorney. A skilled attorney can review the circumstances of your accident and help determine who may or may not be liable for your damages.