When can you hold a bar or restaurant liable for your loved one’s death?

When someone dies as a result of someone else’s drunk driving, it may seem obvious to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the drunken driver. However, in some cases, another party may also be liable for the death: The bar or restaurant that overserved the drunk driver.

New Mexico is one of several states that have “dram shop” laws that allow victims of drunk driving accidents and their survivors to hold a third party liable for negligence.

When do New Mexico’s dram shop laws come into play?

Under Section 41-11-1 of the New Mexico Statutes, you may be able to hold a licensed alcohol vendor — such as a bar, club or restaurant — liable for a drunk driving accident when:

  • The vendor either sold or served alcohol to someone who was intoxicated
  • That person’s intoxication was reasonably apparent to the vendor
  • The vendor had reason to know that the person they were serving was intoxicated

In other words, when a bar or restaurant overserves a patron, the establishment may have to accept partial responsibility for any crashes that patron causes on the way home. If they follow the law, bar and restaurant owners can be a great help in keeping drunk drivers off the roads. When bar and restaurant owners overserve patrons, lives are put at risk.

How can you prove that a vendor served someone too much alcohol?

We live in a world where data and digital information are everywhere. Video cameras inside a restaurant can show how many drinks were brought to a patron’s table, or video could show the increasingly intoxicated behavior of a bar patron. Electronic receipts can be used to tally up the shots or beers someone had before they got into their car. Video may also be available to show the patron’s behavior in the parking lot before or after drinking at the establishment.

Preserving evidence in a case becomes more difficult the longer you wait, so don’t hesitate to speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as you can about your situation.