Boston Dramshop Litigation Lawyer
Dramshop liability refers to a body of law that permits a party host, restaurant, bar, liquor store or another commercial establishment to be held liable in cases where alcohol is sold to a visibly intoxicated person who subsequently causes a serious or fatal accident.
Massachusetts drunk driving accident attorneys understand establishing liability in the wake of a crash is critical to making an adequate recovery for the senseless loss caused by a driver who climbs behind the wheel after having too much to drink. In cases where a commercial establishment serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated patron, that business and its insurance company must be held accountable.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reports someone is killed in a drunk driving accident every hour. Nationwide, more than one-third of all fatal crashes are alcohol related, resulting in more than 10,000 motorist deaths annually. Massachusetts drunk driving accidents were responsible for nearly half of all traffic fatalities in the commonwealth in 2010, accounting for 141 of 314 deaths.
Most of these crashes occur at night and on the weekend. It’s no secret many involve patrons of a nightclub, bar or restaurant, who are making their way home after a long night of drinking. In other cases, a sporting venue, concert, fair or street festival may be involved. In all cases, commercial establishments have an obligation under the law when it comes to responsibly of serving customers and guests.
Under Massachusetts Law, the state’s high court in Cimino v. The Milford Keg, Inc., 385 Mass. 323 (1981) ruled a bar could be sued in cases where a patron exhibited "drunk, loud and vulgar" behavior and was determined to be "visibly intoxicated.”
An Old World term for a tavern, “dram” is a unit of liquor and “shop” meant the location where spirits were sold.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports states with tough dram shop laws reduce alcohol-related crashes by as much as 5 percent. Such laws also help educate servers and reduce over-service of alcoholic beverages to intoxicated patrons. Excessive and illegal (underage) consumption also decrease.
In Massachusetts, dramshop law is not outlined by statute but is instead found in case law. What this means for accident victims is that choosing a law firm experienced in dram shop litigation will be critical to protecting your rights in the wake of a serious or fatal accident. When you compare minimum car insurance coverage for bodily injury under Massachusetts law ($20,000) with the $1 million or more in liability coverage held by most restaurants and bars, you can quickly see how making a proper claim can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of your case.
In Massachusetts, a vendor can be held liable for an intoxicated adult or minor. Unfortunately, case law has not held social hosts responsible in most cases. Still, party hosts may be held responsible in some cases where an intoxicated minor is involved.
Contact an experienced law firm as soon as possible. Restaurant or bar receipts, surveillance video, eyewitness testimony and statements from staff should be collected as part of a comprehensive investigation conducted in the immediate aftermath of a serious or fatal crash.
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