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Albuquerque Dram Shop and DUI/DWI Injury Lawyer

Drunk driving accidents lead to so many deaths and serious injuries each year in New Mexico. If you or a loved one has been injured from an intoxicated driving accident, you need competent legal representation. These types of personal injury or wrongful death cases require technical and scientific knowledge of DUI or DWI tests, and for persons without legal backgrounds in this particular area of personal injury or wrongful death law, it can be hard to file a properly drafted lawsuit. The extent of medical bills and overall economic and non-economic damages can be rather large, and auto insurance policies often do not cover the extent of damages in these types of personal injury and wrongful death cases. To obtain compensation that meets some level of fairness, you need to make sure you sue all potential defendants. In many cases, that could include the bar, the restaurant, the wine store, or even the fun couple down the street hosting a party. States with dram shop laws allow these types of defendants, but the laws can be strict and limited. 

At Gauthier & Maier Law Firm, P.C., our accident attorneys in Albuquerque, Los Lunas, and Belen help clients fight for full and fair compensation in accidents caused by intoxicated drivers and have the resources and knowledge necessary to successfully file a lawsuit on your behalf. No matter the extent of your injuries and losses, you deserve the maximum the law allows so that you can recover properly and begin rebuilding your life. Contact us at 505-226-3205 to schedule a Free Consultation and to learn more about whether a dram shop law applies to your unique situation.

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What Constitutes Intoxicated Driving Accidents in New Mexico?

An intoxicated driving accident is any accident that involves a driver driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can even include legal prescription drugs if the driver was aware or should have known that the drug would impact their ability to drive. 

Different types of drugs and alcohol can impact drivers in vastly different ways. When a person causes an auto accident due to intoxication, that person may be responsible for compensation to any and all accident victims.

Liability in New Mexico for Drunk Driving or Drugged Driving Accidents

Liability in auto accidents lies with the driver or drivers who caused the accident. If the accident involved an intoxicated driver, the assumption, initially at least, is that the intoxicated driver caused the accident and is, therefore, liable for it. 

That said, liability depends on the facts and circumstances, not on a person's intoxication alone.

It is not automatic that an intoxicated driver will be liable for every accident. For example, if the other driver involved in the accident blew through a red light or was texting at the time of the collision, they will likely be held accountable. On the other hand, the latter driver could be found to have contributed to the accident by a certain percentage. Most states adhere to a comparative negligence theory, which means you can still recover compensation but it will be reduced accordingly. 

Evidence and Proving Intoxicated Driving in Auto Accident Cases in New Mexico

Cases involving driving under the influence (DUI or DWI) accidents can be tricky to prove to some extent because you need to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the driver was intoxicated. This burden of proof requires that evidence show it was more likely than not that the intoxicated driver caused the accident (and not simply that the driver was intoxicated). Fortunately, you can use evidence allowed by the court in the criminal case. Further, you can do so even before the criminal trial has been conducted. 

Keep in mind, however, that you need to prove not that the other driver was intoxicated but that the driver was at fault for the accident––and it was the intoxication that caused it. Evidence you can submit in a civil case can include but is not limited to:

  • Police reports
  • Evidence of driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) (breath, blood, or urine tests)
  • Eyewitness testimony 
  • Surveillance footage from nearby cameras
  • Photographs of the scene
  • Accident reconstruction reports
  • Testimony of people who witnessed the other driver drinking and becoming intoxicated

Also, keep in mind that even if the alleged intoxicated driver is found not guilty of a DUI or DWI, that may not matter in your civil case. As mentioned above, the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence in most civil cases, and in criminal cases, the standard is a much higher one: beyond a reasonable doubt. DUI or DWI defendants can often get off on a technicality, but the same may not apply in a civil case.

Compensation from Intoxicated Driving Accidents in New Mexico

Compensation is intended to make a victim of an accident “whole” (or as much as possible) after the losses they sustain as a result of the accident. A victim of an intoxicated driving accident may be eligible for different forms of compensation that involve both economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages may include but are not limited to medical bills to treat the victim and any costs to repair or replace the vehicle. If the auto accident victim misses work as a result of their injuries, then they can demand lost wages, among other things.

It is also possible for accident victims to be compensated for the pain and suffering that they experience as a result of their injuries. These sorts of damages are less concrete, but the general rule is that the worse an injury is, the higher the dollar figure for pain and suffering could be.

Contact a Auto Accident Lawyer in Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Belen, and throughout New Mexico with DUI/DWI Accident Experience

At Gauthier & Maier Law Firm, P.C., we understand the laws applicable to your case and will be able to help you fight for maximum compensation for your injuries. We also have experience assessing similar claims and will be able to help ensure that you do not take a settlement offer that inadequately compensates you.

In addition, when considering insurance companies, an attorney is an asset. Insurance companies are businesses and do not represent your interests, even when you are their client. They live and breathe profit. Paying out the least amount as possible is their ultimate mission. Hiring an intoxicated driving accident attorney from Gauthier & Maier Law Firm, P.C. ensures that you have an experienced partner in your corner to represent and fight for your interests. Call us today at (505) 226-3205to schedule a Free Consultation.

Types of Dram Shop Laws

The term “dram shop” is a holdover from when alcohol was sold by the dram, which by modern-day standards is less than a teaspoon. Dram shop laws are laws that impose civil liability on a seller of alcoholic beverages when the person they sold alcohol to commits harmful, negligent acts. Not all states have dram shop laws, and among those that do, there are different types. 

Laws Involving Minors

Many dram shop laws are geared towards situations where the person who is served the alcohol is under the age of 21. In particular, when the seller knew or should have known, that the person being served or sold the alcohol is under the age of 21, laws in those states hold the establishment liable for the resulting injuries caused by the underage, intoxicated party.

Social Host Liability Laws

In some states, “dram shop laws” and “social host liability laws” are used interchangeably. Generally speaking in those states, social host liability laws hold sellers responsible for injuries caused by intoxicated persons to whom they sold or provided alcohol when it was clear these intoxicated persons were indeed intoxicated and should not consume more alcohol.  

In other states, social hosts are generally people that throw a party and serve alcohol, and they are treated differently from vendors who sell alcohol. In most of these states, a social host can be held liable for serving alcohol to a minor but not for serving alcohol to an intoxicated adult. 

Habitual Drinker Laws

In some states that have dram shop laws, one of the ways an establishment can be held liable is when they serve a person known to them as someone that abuses alcohol. These laws are not to be confused with laws like Virginia's where people designated as habitual drunkards could be arrested for purchasing alcohol – this Virginia law was struck down and amended. 

Dram Shop Liability for Injuries in New Mexico

Dram shop liability depends on each state's law on the same, if the state even has a law. It also depends on who the victim is. In first-party dram shop laws, the victim who files the claim is the person who was actually served the alcohol and caused an accident in which they were injured. Then there are third-party dram shop laws, which are typically what we think of when we consider dram shop laws, and in these laws, the victim who files the claim is the one who is injured by the intoxicated person. Knowing which applies in your state, if any, is important so that you can better strategize your claim and obtain maximum compensation. 

First-Party Dram Shop Laws

First-party dram shop laws apply to cases where the plaintiff is the person that was served the alcohol. Typically, although it depends on the state, these are people under the age of 21, and after leaving the establishment that served them the alcohol, they suffer an injury due to their over-consumption. For example, if a 20-year-old was served alcohol to the point of intoxication at a bar, and then attempted to drive home but on the way lost control of their vehicle and hit a tree causing severe injuries, they may pursue a claim against the bar that served them.

First-party dram shop liability tends to be difficult to prove. A jury tends not to side with the party they hold accountable directly for the accident – in this case, the intoxicated minor. A jury tends to find against these claims because they believe the “victim” should be held responsible for their own actions. 

Third-Party Dram Shop Laws

When a party that has been injured by an intoxicated person sues the establishment that served the intoxicated person the alcohol, third-party dram shop laws apply. For example, if we use the same example from above, but instead of hitting a tree the intoxicated 20-year-old driver hit another vehicle head-on, seriously injuring the occupants, then the third-party occupants may sue the bar. To be clear, under these laws, the 20-year-old intoxicated driver cannot sue the bar for damages if they were also injured. 

Third-party dram shop liability tends to be less difficult to prove, but the claimant will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the establishment is at fault. In most jurisdictions with these types of laws, the claimant usually must show that the intoxicated driver was visibly intoxicated when over-served alcohol by the establishment or, if the intoxicated person was a minor, show that the establishment had reason to know the person served alcohol was under the age of 21 years. 

Issues Arising out of Dram Shop Injury Cases in New Mexico

There are various issues that can arise out of dram shop injury cases. Although it depends on the state, some of the more common issues are described below. 

Visible Intoxication

While proving that an underage person was served alcohol is not a difficult task, in cases where the person is over the age of 21, proving that they were “visibly intoxicated” can be burdensome. Often, a toxicologist will be retained by the plaintiff to prove that the drunk party was clearly, and visibly intoxicated.

Places Where Alcohol Was Consumed

Another issue for a person seeking restitution under the dram shop laws is proving that the vendor was the only entity or person that served the person in question alcohol. In other words, was the vendor the only establishment where the intoxicated person consumed alcohol, or was it just one of many?  

Cause of Accident

Proving that a person involved in an accident was incorrectly served, or over-served, alcohol is not enough to recover compensation from the vendor. In addition, it still needs to be established that the intoxicated person actually caused the accident.

Evidence in Dram Shop Liability Cases in New Mexico

Recovering restitution under dram shop laws is often multi-faceted. Further, as the above issues indicate, proving liability can be challenging. You have a burden to prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. That evidence can include:

  • Expert testimony, like toxicologists 
  • Witness testimony, like statements of any witnesses present when the intoxicated person was at the bar, bought the alcohol, etc.
  • Receipts or credit card statements,  that indicate the amount of alcohol that was served and at what times it was served
  • Photographs or videos that can be recovered showing how much alcohol the person was served, as well as the condition they were in when they arrived at the establishment and when they left the establishment

According to the facts of the case and the jurisdiction, additional evidence may be needed. 

Remedies for Dram Shop Injuries in New Mexico

Like all personal injury cases, if you have been injured by an intoxicated driver and the jurisdiction's dram shop law apply to your case, you can seek damages from the third party just as you would from the intoxicated driver. Restaurants, bars, alcohol stores, and the like might be held responsible, and if they are, they may owe:

  • Economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages
  • Non-economic damages, like pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages, if applicable, to punish and deter

The damages you can seek are state-specific, and you can only seek them against a restaurant, bar, or alcohol store if your state allows it. Contacting a lawyer to help you know your rights, the law, and who can be held responsible is the first step to making sure you get full and fair compensation.

Contact a Dram Shop Injury Attorney in Albuquerque, Los Lunas, and Belen Today

It is controversial to hold liable any bar, restaurant, or store selling alcohol, and any other establishment for selling or providing alcohol to consumers who soon thereafter drive while under the influence of alcohol and cause an auto accident. For those who find themselves victims of DWI/DUI accidents, holding these businesses liable makes sense. They are part of the problem if they knew or should have known that the driver was already intoxicated and should not be served or sold more alcohol. That moral culpability seems like it should also mean legal liability, but not always. 

Our DWI/DUI injury lawyer located in Albuquerque, Los Lunas, and Belen handles these types of cases. Contact Gauthier & Maier Law Firm, P.C. to schedule a Free Consultation and to learn more about these laws and whether they apply in New Mexico.

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Gauthier & Maier Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about Motor Vehicle Accidents, Medical Malpractice and Civil Rights law issues in New Mexico.

We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.