Knowing Your Case- Delaware Dram Shop Laws

Imagine are driving home on Thanksgiving Eve after spending some time with family from out of town. You are traveling on a narrow road close to home going just under the speed limit. As you approach the blind turn that you have driven countless occasions, you begin to ease off of the accelerator. Out of nowhere a car blatantly crosses the double line and hits you head on. The driver, exceedingly drunk, the driver claims to have just left the local bar close to your home. You are rushed to the emergency room with neck pain and shoulder pain.

Thanksgiving day, doctors explain you need neck surgery due to a herniated disc you suffered in the crash. You also discover the drunken driver that struck you is uninsured. This leaves you in a financial crisis as your insurance only covers a certain amount of medical bills and lost wages. Who is liable for your pain and suffering other than the drunk driver? The dive bar who over-served? Not necessarily.

Thanksgiving eve is the biggest drinking holiday in the nation. Black Wednesday- the biggest bar night of the year, is a huge celebration in many states. The increase in bar customers causes a spike in traffic accidents nationwide. Roughly one-third of fatal accidents on Thanksgiving Eve are attributed to drunken driving, resulting in the highest number of drunk driving accidents of any holiday.

Dram shop laws hold alcohol vendors or social hosts responsible for damages if they provide alcohol to an intoxicated person (or a minor) that then causes harm to someone else. These laws are non-existent in the state of Delaware, unlike neighboring states such as New Jersey or Maryland. These laws are known as “dram shop” laws because alcohol is traditionally sold by the unit of measure known as a “dram.” Under Delaware Code Title 4 Section 706, businesses that sell alcohol are prohibited selling or serving alcohol to any person “if such individual is intoxicated or appears to be intoxicated.” However, this section of the Delaware Code shields alcohol vendors from civil liability for damages as a result of over-serving alcohol. Businesses and vendors are not held responsible if they over-serve any patron or customer.

Thanksgiving is about spending time with family, friends, and of course, food. Be smart–if you have been drinking this Thanksgiving Eve, there are an assortment of ride-sharing services in the Delaware area that will get you home safely. With that being said, if you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver, know your options. Contact an attorney and know your rights.



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