Man drunk at a bar about to drive

Can New York Bars And Restaurants Be Held Liable For Drunk Driving Accidents?

By Steven Miller
Senior Partner

Despite decades of public awareness campaigns, drunk driving remains a persistent and deadly problem. Throughout the State of New York, just over 30% of fatal vehicular accidents are alcohol-related. Many drunk drivers are served at retail establishments, such as bars and restaurants, before getting into accidents. Fortunately for victims and their families, the law allows these businesses to be held liable in certain cases. This is important because it increases the likelihood that victims will receive adequate compensation for their injuries.

If you or a loved one were hurt in a car accident and you believe a bar or restaurant was at fault, it’s time to speak with the personal injury team at Miller, Montiel, & Strano, P.C.

How bars and restaurants may be responsible

Bars, taverns, restaurants, and similar businesses cannot just sell alcoholic beverages to anyone. And this prohibition is not limited to age, either. New York law expressly forbids an establishment from selling alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated. The establishment can be held responsible for any injuries later caused by that customer. This is known generally as dram shop liability.

There is an even lower standard of proof if the drunk driver in question was under age 21. In this situation, the victim needs only to show that the underage person was served alcohol prior to the accident and that doing so caused the patron to become intoxicated or impaired. The victim need not show that the underage driver was visibly intoxicated at the time of being served alcohol.

Connecting the accident to the bar or other establishment

What this all means is that if the victim can show a link between the business’s irresponsible dispensing of alcohol to a customer and a drunk driving accident, the business can be held accountable for the victim’s injuries. Establishing that link is the role of an experienced Queens personal injury attorney.

Generally, what happens in these cases is that the drunk driver is arrested and proven to have been intoxicated at the time of the accident. Through police and/or attorney investigations, the patron’s activities leading up to the accident are determined. If a bar or restaurant was the cause of the driver’s intoxication, sales receipts and other evidence can be obtained proving the establishment illegally sold alcohol to the drunk driver.

Why dram shop liability matters to the victim

Most people assume that if a driver causes an automobile accident – regardless of the reason – the driver’s insurance company will pay for it. But there are two problems with this assumption. One is that the driver may have no insurance, meaning the victim would have to pursue that individual (who likely has limited resources) to pay the victim. Rarely does this produce compensation to the victim. Two is that even if the driver has insurance, the driver’s insurance coverage may be inadequate to fully compensate the injured victim for the injuries, pain, suffering and disability caused.

Holding a business establishment liable therefore adds another source of insurance coverage and potential compensation for the victim. A diligent personal injury attorney will seek to hold all responsible parties accountable in order to maximize the amount of damages the victim (or the victim’s family) receives.

Working On Behalf of New York Car Accident Victims

No one deserves to be injured or lose a loved one because an intoxicated person got behind the wheel. Any business that illegally causes a drunk driving accident should be forced to compensate the victim. Let Miller, Montiel, & Strano, P.C. go to work for you and your family today. Call us to schedule your consultation.

About the Author
Steven Miller, Esq. is the founding member and Senior Partner in Miller, Montiel & Strano, P.C. Mr. Miller’s extensive career as a trial attorney spans five decades. He tries cases for the catastrophically injured victims of construction site accidents, motor vehicle and premises accidents caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Miller is a detail oriented, tenacious attorney committed to achieving the maximum results for his clients; he has obtained numerous seven figure verdicts and settlements.