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What is the North Carolina dram shop law?

North Carolina, under General Statute 18B-121, makes it possible for the injured victim of an underage drunk driver to file injury or wrongful death claims against the bar, restaurant or store that sold the at-fault driver alcohol.

This is called a dram shop law because a dram is a measure of liquor roughly equal to a normal-sized shot. The law places these restrictions of dram shop lawsuits:

  • Claims must be filed within 3 years of the date on which the crash happened or the death occurred.
  • The at-fault driver was provably intoxicated, was definitely under the age of 21 and clearly caused the crash.
  • The victim/plaintiff suffered injuries or died as a direct result of the crash caused by the drunk and underage driver.
  • The seller of the alcohol knew, should have known or made no attempt to determine whether the person buying alcohol was younger than 21.


Eric K. Washburn
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia