Call (800) 863-5312 to Speak with Las Cruces Dram Shop Lawyers For Free
To the victim of an alcohol-related accident, it can feel as though the whole world has turned upside down. Dealing with the immediate fallout of such an accident can drain your resources, physical, mental, and financial. Adding a personal injury case against someone can be overwhelming. Las Cruces dram shop lawyers at Zinda Law Group can help you.
You deserve to recover damages for what you have lost and are suffering: wages from missing work, emotional distress from the trauma, injuries with medical bills, and repair bills from damaged property and vehicles. If you or a loved one has been the victim of an alcohol-related accident in Las Cruces, and you need help, call Zinda Law Group
For a free legal consultation with a dram shop lawyer serving Las Cruces, call 800-863-5312
Can I Sue A Bar For Drunk Driving in Las Cruces?
After an alcohol-related accident, the intoxicated individual is the person you’d probably think would be the one to bring a lawsuit against. After all, he or she was the one who caused the accident in the first place. However, a good personal injury lawyer will want to keep all of your options open for your best chance at recovery.
Individuals may be underinsured or uninsured, which can lead to them being judgement proof. That is, even if they are ordered by the court to pay damages, there is little that can be done if the individual genuinely does not have any money.
It might be better to pursue a claim against another party at fault more likely to be insured. That’s where dram shop liability comes in. A dram shop is a drinking establishment, a place such as a bar or a restaurant that has a license or permit to serve alcohol.
Dram shop laws, meant to promote responsible serving practices at drinking establishments, discourage alcohol from being served to obviously intoxicated individuals. These laws allow a victim of an intoxicated individual to bring a lawsuit for the damages they suffered against the bar or restaurant that sold the intoxicated person alcohol.
In Las Cruces, dram shop laws may apply to your case if you are the victim of a drunk driving accident or other alcohol-related accident. The requirements for a dram shop lawsuit in Las Cruces are governed by the New Mexico Statutes, Section 41-11-1, also known as the New Mexico Dram Shop Liability Act.
The New Mexico Dram Shop Liability Act states that in order to sue a bar or other drinking establishment for drunk driving or for another alcohol-related accident, a plaintiff must prove three elements concerning the behavior of the drinking establishment.:
1. The drinking establishment must have sold or served alcohol to a person who was intoxicated.
2. It was reasonably apparent that the individual was intoxicated.
3. The drinking establishment knew from the circumstances that the individual was intoxicated.
The Act defines intoxication for the purposes of dram shop liability as “the impairment of a person’s mental and physical faculties as a result of alcoholic beverage use so as to substantially diminish that person’s ability to think and act.” In other words, an individual is deemed intoxicated when consumption of alcohol diminishes their senses, either physical or mental, to the point where they cannot react in the same way a reasonable, sober person could.
To establish a bar’s liability for alcohol injuries, it is not enough just to prove that a drinking establishment sold alcohol to an intoxicated person. It must also be proven that the establishment did so knowingly, or should have known that the individual was intoxicated.
A reasonable person would have noticed that the individual was intoxicated, both from general behavioral cues as well as from the situation itself. For example, if someone orders a large volume of strong drinks, it is reasonable to conclude that they are intoxicated even if they do not act as such, because under those circumstances, anyone will become intoxicated.
Dram Shop in Las Cruces lawyers near me 800-863-5312
Apparent Intoxication Under Las Cruces Dram Shop Laws
More than just the definition of intoxication given in the Dram Shop Liability Act governs how intoxication can be determined during a dram shop liability lawsuit. The New Mexico Supreme Court case Gutierrez v. Meteor Monument LLC found that circumstantial evidence could be used to prove the “apparent intoxication” of an individual.
In 2003, Dean Durant worked a shift at the Meteor Monument, a drinking establishment. Durant was an alcoholic who regularly purchased alcohol and became intoxicated on his shifts. While driving home one night, he fatally crashed his car into the motorcycle of Daniel Gutierrez.
Gutierrez’s estate filed suit against Meteor Monument under dram shop liability, alleging that it was apparent Durant was intoxicated when he was sold the alcohol. Meteor Monument argued that there was no evidence that Durant’s intoxication was apparent because there was no record of the employee who gave him the alcohol.
The New Mexico Supreme Court found that while there was no specific evidence demonstrating that Durant’s intoxication was apparent to the employees at Meteor Monument, that did not mean it was not reasonably apparent that Durant was intoxicated.
Here, the court looked at circumstantial evidence, such as Durant’s well-known history of alcoholism and the fact that his fellow employees knew he often became intoxicated at work. They also considered these facts: employees were aware Durant was drinking that day, the drinks he consumed had high alcohol content, and the results of a breathalyzer taken several hours later showed his high blood alcohol level.
Essentially, even though the specific employee who gave Durant alcohol could not be identified, that did not mean the court could not find his intoxicated state was not apparent. Rather, the circumstances of Durant’s intoxication were such that the court could conclude his intoxication had to have been apparent, regardless of who was serving him or what evidence there was of his behavior.
Dram Shop Law Exceptions In Las Cruces
The New Mexico Dram Shop Liability Act applies to all state-licensed drinking establishments in New Mexico. However, it does not apply to every licensed drinking establishment in the state. This became apparent after the ruling in a New Mexico Supreme Court case, Mendoza v. Tamaya Enterprises, Inc.
In 2006, sister and brother Desiree and Michael Mendoza attended a wedding at a casino and were served alcohol by the casino staff. Driving back from the casino, the Mendozas’ car flipped over and they died. Their estate brought a lawsuit against Tamaya Enterprises, the operator of the casino, for violating dram shop laws.
The New Mexico Supreme Court held that Tamaya Enterprises had not violated the New Mexico Dram Shop Liability Act because the Act was only applicable to drinking establishments licensed by New Mexico state law. However, the casino operated by Tamaya Enterprises was located on tribal land, and was licensed under tribal law, not state law. Therefore, the Dram Shop Liability Act did not apply to them.
The court ruled that while the Act did not apply to the casino, the wording of the Act also did not prevent a common lawsuit from being brought against the casino. In life, everyone is generally expected to act in a safe, reasonable manner, regardless of whether or not there is a specific law governing their behavior.
A common law action is the type of claim that is brought when there is no specific law against an action, but the action was still harmful and caused damages because an individual did not act in the reasonable, safe manner expected of everyone all the time. In this case, no specific law forbade casinos on tribal land from serving apparently intoxicated customers. However, the Mendoza estate could still bring a claim against the casino because it was an incorrect, harmful action, even if the law did not explicitly forbid it.
Regardless of where you were injured in a drunk driving accident, exceptions and complicated points of law like these make it important to talk to a lawyer about your case. The Las Cruces dram shop attorneys at Zinda Law Group know the case law surrounding dram shop cases in this jurisdiction. We can let you know what options are open to you concerning bar liability for drunk driving in your case.
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Social Host Liability Or Dram Shop Liability?
Dram shop liability only applies to people who have purchased alcohol from a licensed drinking establishment, but that is not the only situation in which someone might consume alcohol. It is very common to drink socially at parties, where alcohol is provided for free by individuals in a private home.
Of course, an individual who has become intoxicated at a private party has just as much ability to cause serious damage as an individual who became intoxicated at a licensed drinking establishment. However, dram shop liability does not apply to these situations; instead, they are governed by social host liability.
Both social host laws and dram shop laws govern liability of third parties if an individual they have provided alcohol to causes damages to someone else. However, social host liability is the liability which might attach to an individual providing others with alcohol in their home or another social situation.
Various states have different social host liability laws. In some places, social hosts are liable for the actions of any intoxicated parties in the same way dram shop laws operate. In other places, social hosts are specifically excluded from liability, and in some places, liability only attaches if the recipient of the beverage was a minor.
In New Mexico, the Dram Shop Liability Act states that social hosts do not face liability for the actions of their intoxicated guests unless the alcoholic beverages were “provided recklessly in disregard of the rights of others, including the social guest.”
In order to pursue a claim against a social host for the actions of their intoxicated guest, a plaintiff would have to prove that the actions of the host were reckless and unreasonable. This can be more difficult for a personal injury attorney in Las Cruces to prove than dram shop laws, which only require the individual’s intoxication to be apparent to others or from the circumstances.
What Are Maximum Dram Shop Lawsuit Damages in Las Cruces?
Damages are monetary awards given in a lawsuit to go towards making restitution towards the victim of the wrong. There are three types of damages typically awarded in personal injury lawsuits:
- General damages, which are intended to compensate the victim, but for something that does not have a specific price (such as emotional harm)
- Economic damages, which compensate a victim for a specific cost incurred (such as medical bills)
- Punitive damages, which are not intended to compensate the victim, but to punish the party at fault
A dram shop liability case in Las Cruces will be governed by the Dram Shop Liability Act’s provision in damages, in which it states that the limit is:
- $50,000 — for bodily injury to or death of one person in each transaction or occurrence
- $100,000 — for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in each transaction or occurrence
- $20,000 — for property damage in each transaction or occurrence
While these are the maximum possible damages to receive in a Las Cruces dram shop case, that is not the amount victims will automatically receive. You will need a lawyer willing to fight aggressively to get you the best possible settlement for your situation. At Zinda Law Group, our team of Las Cruces drunk driving accident attorneys will pursue the maximum settlement for your case.
Get Help From Las Cruces Dram Shop Lawyers
After a drunk driving accident, you may be worried about the stress, complications, and expense of pursuing a lawsuit to recover your damages, especially if you have to deal with ongoing medical problems, property damages, or other issues arising from what happened.
When you are dealing with a commercial entity such as a drinking establishment instead of an individual, things can become even more complicated. A commercial entity has vastly different insurance claims and legal resources than an individual would. This is why it’s so important to have a personal injury lawyer with both experience and compassion.
At Zinda Law Group, our Las Cruces dram shop attorneys have helped thousands of drunk driving accident victims get the settlements they deserve. But we also know how difficult it can be to be the victim of a serious accident.
We believe everyone deserves access to competent legal representation, which is why we have a contingency fee arrangement for all our cases. That means if you are one of our Las Cruces clients, Zinda Law Group will fight for your rights to recover for your injuries, and you won’t pay a thing unless you are awarded a favorable verdict or settlement. This is our “No Win, No Fee Guarantee.”
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.