A person who hosts a party that serves intoxicating drugs and/or alcohol could be held legally liable for intoxicated guests who cause an accident with injury or death to a third party. Restaurants, bars, liquor stores, and other businesses that serve alcohol may also be held legally liable under state dram shop laws if their patron proceeds to drive intoxicated and injure another person. These laws will vary from state to state, and while most states have dram shop laws on the books, not all states have created social host liability laws, but if they have, you may find yourself in need of a social host liability lawyer.
Who is Held Liable Under Social Host Liability Laws?
Renters of property, homeowners, or anyone who provides alcohol to someone and that person injures someone in a drunk driving accident is at risk for civil liability. Virtually any event can give rise to social host liability, not just holiday parties. However, most states that have social host liability laws only assess fault on a host who furnishes alcohol to people under the age of 21.
Who Can File a Lawsuit Under Social Host Liability Laws?
Although some states do not have social host liability laws, there may be some level of responsibility levied. If an intoxicated driver has harmed you or a loved one, contact our law firm to speak with an experienced attorney to determine the laws in your state. Generally, a person who an intoxicated guest has injured is able to file a personal injury lawsuit.
First-Party Social Host Liability – “First-party” social host liability occurs when the accident victim is the intoxicated driver. In most cases, only a minor can bring a “First-party” social host liability lawsuit.
Third-Party Social Host Liability – “Third-party” social host liability lawsuits involve an injured person who was not driving drunk. If someone is injured by a drunk driver who got drunk at a party, that accident victim may have a third-party social host liability claim against the host of the party who furnished the alcohol. However, every state has different rules governing social host liability.
How to Prove Liability in Social Host Liability Lawsuits
Depending on the individual state’s law, liability in social host liability lawsuits may be based on negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct.
Recklessness – Acting in a reckless way means someone consciously disregarded a substantial risk creating an unsafe situation to occur. For example, driving a motor vehicle at 70 MPH through a neighborhood is acting recklessly. An example of acting recklessly in a social host issue could be offering their guest another alcoholic drink knowing the guest is intoxicated, showing signs of being intoxicated, and knowing the drunk guest needs to drive home soon. In that circumstance, the host acted unreasonably unsafe or recklessly.
Intentional Conduct – Some states’ social host liability laws require that the host knew that their guest was under the age of 21 and still furnished the minor with alcohol to be held liable. In those circumstances, if the host credibly testified in court that they did not know that the visitor was under 21, the host might not be held liable in accordance with that state’s social host liability law.
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