Legal Claims Abound for Over-Service of Alcohol Leading to DWI Accidents

It is illegal for bartenders or wait staff to over-serve patrons regardless if they are driving or not.  The state of New Mexico has launched a DWI campaign dubbed buzzkill cracking down on over-service of alcohol to prevent DWI accidents.  This is a always a significant issue during the holidays when folks are inclined to over-drink and bars are prone to accommodate.  The consequences are often catastrophic or deadly.

This raises a number of issues for anyone harmed as a result of over-service.

Who Can Sue?

In New Mexico, anybody harmed as a result of over-service of alcohol can sue the bar, restaurant, bartender or wait staff that over-served the person causing the harm. This includes the person that was over-served.  For example, if an over-served customer hits the road and has a deadly accident killing himself, his passenger and others, all would have a wrongful death claims against the establishment and employees that over-served.

Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se basically means that the fact that something happened at all is sufficient to show negligence.  Violation of laws and statutes such as the ones governing over-service of alcohol are negligence per se.

Dram Shop Laws

New Mexico’s dram shop laws govern bar sales including over-service of alcohol.  The dram shop laws are written and interpreted for the protection of the public.  Although it may be little consolation following an accident related to over-service, these laws are very beneficial to those harmed by over-service of alcohol.

Punitive Damages

There a two kinds of damages (money) awarded in personal injury and wrongful death cases.  The first is compensatory damages compensate the victim for injuries, medical costs, lost income, loss of life to name just a few.  Punitive damages are used to punish and deter the wrongful behavior.  Punitive damages are often an issue in these cases and DWI accident cases generally due to the recklessness of either DWI or encouraging DWI.

The primary goal of dram shop and DWI laws is to protect the public.  As such, the deterrence aspect of punitive damages is very important in these cases.  It is particularly so in cases of repeat offenders.  As the article below from the Las Cruces Sun indicates, 75 bars have been cited for over-service of alcohol.  These and others may have been sued.  The point is that for anyone harmed by over-service, it is important to determine if the establishment has prior incidents.  In these cases, the punitive damages could be quite large dwarfing the compensatory damages.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

As in most lawsuits, the concepts are fairly basic.  The complexity is in the details.  Because DWI accidents typically lead to severe injuries or death, the stakes are high.  This means that the defendants (servers) and their insurance companies will fight over every last nickel.  It is important to have an attorney experienced in DWI accidents, dram shop laws, insurance, litigation and damages to work through each and every hurdle the insurance companies will throw at you.

Collins & Collins, P.C. has been helping innocent victims throughout New Mexico since 2001.  We are here to help.  We can be reached online or by phone at (505) 242-5958.


NM launches anti-DWI campaign to curb over-serving:  Las Cruces Sun

NM launches anti-DWI campaign to curb over-serving SANTA FE – The New Mexico Department of Transportation has launched a new campaign aimed at curbing the over-serving of alcohol to patrons at bars and other establishments around the state.


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