Understanding Dram Shop Law and Drunk Driving Crashes

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you may be facing extensive medical bills and other expenses. The injuries may require a long time away from work, and physical therapy may be necessary. If the injuries are permanent, you may need to make modifications to your home to allow for a disability. 

That all may be more than the drunk driver’s insurance will cover – if they even have insurance. Your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage likely can’t cover it all either. Drunk drivers can be held civilly liable in addition to facing criminal charges. However, there may be a limit to the assets your drunk driver has for you to recover. 

When can businesses be held liable for a drunk driver? 

There’s another option if the drunk driver was overserved at a bar, restaurant or other establishment or a store sold alcohol to someone who was already clearly intoxicated. New Mexico, like many other states, has what is known as a “dram shop” law. These laws allow those harmed by a drunk driver to sue the business that served or sold alcohol to them and then let them get behind the wheel when they were in no condition to drive. 

Under New Mexico law, someone injured by a drunk driver can sue a licensed alcohol vendor if the establishment sold or served alcohol to the person when they knew they were intoxicated or when their intoxication was “reasonably apparent.” Businesses that sell alcohol have a responsibility to help ensure that they do what they can to ensure that their customers don’t become a danger to the public. 

Limits in the law 

New Mexico law does cap damages that plaintiffs can get from alcohol vendors for bodily injury and property damage. Lawsuits must be filed within three years of the crash. Note that the drunk driver themselves cannot file a dram shop suit unless they can show that serving or selling them alcohol was “reckless” or “grossly negligent.” 

If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a crash caused by a drunk driver, it’s important to know all of your options for seeking compensation and justice. Having experienced legal guidance can help.