Operation Safe Streets and Dram Shop Liability in North Carolina

barCharlotte, North Carolina is the county seat of Mecklenburg County. In “Operation Safe Streets,” the county’s law enforcement is visiting the parking lots of bars in an effort to stop drunken people from getting behind the wheel and causing a North Carolina drunk driving accident. The officers are in unmarked cars and look at who comes out. They approach people who seem drunk as they go to their cars and ask if it’s a good idea to drive home. They don’t arrest or write tickets as long as the drinker admits he or she shouldn’t drive home and gets a ride home. The program was started to try to think of a way to get drunken people off the streets.

If a driver can’t afford a safe ride home, the county will provide them with the money for an Uber. In the first year of the program, more than 600 drunken people have been intercepted. There are still checkpoints for DUIs around the county.

If you are injured as a result of a drunk driver’s negligent driving, you can hold the drunk driver liable for damages. You will need to show:  (1) the driver owed you a duty of care, (2) the driver breached his duty of care, (3) the breach was the legal cause of the accident, and (4) actual damages resulted. If a driver was cited or charged, you may be able to sue him or her under a theory of negligence per se (negligence as a matter of law).

In addition to holding a drunk driver liable for injuries arising out of a drunk driving accident, you may be able to hold an alcohol vendor liable if the drunk driver was a minor. You will need to show that:  (1) the vendor negligently provided alcohol to a minor under age 21, (2) the minor caused an accident while drunk on the alcohol that was served to him or her, and (3) the accident and injuries were legally caused by the minor’s negligent driving while drunk. Additionally, you have to show that the alcohol was served negligently without taking proper care.

In some other states, an injured person can hold a business liable irrespective of the driver’s age, but in North Carolina, dram shop liability is limited to drunken minors. Alcohol vendors are prohibited from knowingly providing alcohol to any drunken person, regardless of his or her age, under North Carolina General Statutes section 18B-305. However, those injured by a drunk driver cannot seek damages from the alcohol vendor, even when the vendor gave him or her alcohol in violation of section 18B-305.

Several judicial opinions have also allowed for private hosts who provide alcohol in a social setting to be held liable. The judicial opinions have held that if a drunk guest later causes a collision, the injured person can recover damages if she can show that:  (1) the host served or provided the alcohol, (2) the host knew or should have known the person being served was drunk, and (3) the host knew the driver would drive after receiving alcohol.

If you suffered injuries due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another party, the experienced Charlotte drunk driving accident attorneys at Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. We represent clients in the Charlotte, North Carolina metro area, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

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Wrongful Death and Contributory Negligence in North Carolina