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Massachusetts Dram Shop Laws: How Overserving Causes Accidents

By DiBella Law Offices on October 5, 2022

bartender mixing a cocktail with a spoon

Under dram shop laws, people who serve alcoholic beverages at bars, restaurants, and other business establishments in Massachusetts have a responsibility to carefully monitor the behavior of their patrons for signs of intoxication.

When a bar fails to stop serving someone who is clearly drunk, or if they neglect to check the ID of a patron who is underage, and the person they serve goes on to harm someone else in an automobile accident, the victim and their family have the right to sue the bar and its employees for damages.

If you or someone you love was harmed by someone who was over-served alcohol, contact DiBella Law Offices P.C. right away. You only have 90 days to file an affidavit to begin the process, and it’s important to start investigating these cases as quickly as possible, while witnesses are more likely to recall the events that led up to the tragic accident.

Call (978) 327-5140 to schedule a FREE consultation today.

Servers Have a Responsibility to Protect the Public

The term dram shop comes from Old English law when alcohol in taverns was served in units known as drams. Dram shop laws apply to wait staff, bartenders, managers, and owners at restaurants, bars, nightclubs, country clubs, taverns, sports stadiums, liquor stores, fraternity organizations, and other businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.

Dram shop laws may also be enforced when the person who is over-served physically assaults someone or if they are harmed in an accident such as drowning or a fall. But the overwhelming majority of dram shop cases in Massachusetts involve people who are harmed in motor vehicle accidents.

Establishments that serve alcohol in Massachusetts are required to purchase liquor liability insurance with minimum coverage of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. And the average alcohol-selling business carries about $1 million in total coverage.

Wait staff and bartenders have a responsibility to make sure no patron becomes too intoxicated or is served after reaching a certain limit. Owners are encouraged by their insurers to provide training to their staff to look for the following signs that a customer is too inebriated to receive more drinks:

  • Drowsy
  • Belligerent
  • Falling down
  • Slurred speech
  • Argumentative
  • Face turns red
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Lacks inhibitions
  • Loud or boisterous
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Impaired coordination
  • Spilling or dropping drinks
  • Trouble maintaining their balance
  • Not understanding normal conversation

What Your Attorney Can Do

Your dram shop personal injury attorney will investigate the circumstances that preceded the accident. If it turns out that the inebriated person who harmed you was over-served at a business establishment, your attorney will file a claim against their insurance company.

Your attorney will build a strong case by collecting the following types of evidence:

  • Blood tests
  • Breathalyzer results
  • Witness statements
  • Police accident reports
  • Cell phone pictures
  • Surveillance video
  • Official company policies and internal documents

Liability in a Dram Shop Lawsuit

Even when a bar owner provides server training for their employees, liability extends to managers and owners in cases where alcohol is sold improperly. If servers refuse to shut off alcohol sales to someone who is clearly intoxicated, or if they sell drinks to an underage person, the owner of the business is ultimately liable for the harm that results from their reckless actions.

In a dram shop case, you may be eligible to receive compensation to cover the following types of damages:

  • Current and future medical costs
  • Loss of income
  • Scarring
  • Home nursing care
  • Reduced earning potential
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy
  • Emotional and psychological distress
  • Ramps and car lifts for wheelchair access
  • Wrongful death

Were You Harmed by Someone’s Careless Behavior?

You shouldn’t have to pay your own medical bills for an accident caused by another person’s negligent behavior. At DiBella Law Offices P.C., we’ll file a claim to help you get the money you need to start putting your life back together.

We’ve won millions of dollars in settlements for our clients and our founder Christopher DiBella was selected by his peers as a Massachusetts Super Lawyer®.

Call (978) 327-5140 to learn more today.