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Manchester Personal Injury Attorney / Blog / Car Accidents / New Hampshire’s Dram Shop Law: The Liability of Alcohol-Serving Establishments

New Hampshire’s Dram Shop Law: The Liability of Alcohol-Serving Establishments


Contrary to popular belief, the drunk driver who caused your car crash is not the only one who could be held liable for your damages. You may also be able to sue third parties under New Hampshire’s dram shop law.

While impaired motorists who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol face criminal charges and are required to pay restitution to the victim, the injured party may also be able to sue other parties, including the establishment that served alcohol to the drunk driver.

How does the dram shop law work in New Hampshire?

Dram shop laws vary from one state to another. Some states only impose liability on sellers of alcoholic beverages for overserving patrons who are visibly intoxicated, while others apply the dram shop law to businesses that sell alcohol to people under the age of 21.

Under New Hampshire’s dram shop law (NH Rev Stat § 507-F:4), third-party liability applies when the alcohol-serving establishment serves to:

  • A minor; or
  • A visibly intoxicated person.

If the injured party can prove that the establishment negligently served alcohol to the drunk driver, the business can be held liable for their resulting damages and losses.

How to establish negligence in a dram shop liability case?

Negligence can be established if there is evidence that the bar, nightclub, restaurant, or another alcohol-serving establishment knew or if a reasonably prudent person would know that the patron is a minor or is already visibly intoxicated at the time they are served.

For example, a bar could be sued under New Hampshire’s dram shop law if they served alcohol to an underage person who clearly looked like someone under the age of 21, if this then resulted in the minor driving under the influence and causing a car crash. The same can be said about a bar that sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person who slurred speech or exhibited other signs of impairment.

Does New Hampshire’s dram shop law apply to individuals?

In most cases, dram shop liability in New Hampshire only applies to businesses, including bars, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, hotels, liquor stores, and other establishments that serve alcohol to customers and patrons. Typically, liability is imposed on the business (the employer) rather than the individual bartender or server.

While New Hampshire’s dram shop typically applies to businesses, private individuals could also be held liable in certain situations. Private individuals include social hosts or those who host a party and serve alcohol to minors or intoxicated guests.

You could sue even if you injured yourself

Under New Hampshire’s dram shop law, a person is able to sue an alcohol-serving establishment even if they were the one who got drunk and injured themselves.

In this situation, third-party liability may be applicable if the injured party can prove that the defendant (the business that served alcohol) knew or should have known that serving alcohol to them would create “an unreasonable risk of physical harm to the drinker.”

For example, a bar could be sued if it encouraged its patron to drink more and more when he or she was already visibly intoxicated.

It is essential to consult with a skilled car accident attorney in New Hampshire if you were injured in a drunk driving crash. Contact our Manchester car accident lawyers at the Law Office of Manning Zimmerman & Oliveira PLLC to determine whether you can sue third parties for your injury under the state’s dram shop law. Call at 603-624-7200 to receive a consultation.

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