Can You Be Held Liable for a Drunk Guest’s Accident?

When it comes to hosting an event whether it be at a local bar or at your home, more often than not, you will want to serve alcohol to your guests. However, you should know that as a host, you have certain responsibilities, and should your guests be involved in a crash, you might be held liable.

Serving Alcohol in Your Home

For some time now, certain laws have been in place in order to protect guests when attending gatherings at someone’s home. These laws are called social host liability, and they are usually meant to deter hosts from serving alcohol to underaged guests.

In most states, these laws will hold the host accountable. It is considered to be the property owner’s negligence should a minor be injured or hurt someone as a result of consuming alcohol.

However, there are some states that have extended the host’s liability even to adult guests who are involved in an incident after being served alcohol. Some of the states that impose these laws on the hosts no matter the guests age are:

  • Connecticut
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Wisconsin
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
  • South Carolina
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Maine

You’ll want to think twice before letting any guests drive home drunk after a party at your house if you live in any of these states. Not only could someone be hurt or killed, but you may be legally complicit.

How It All Came to Pass

In the 18th century, Dram Shop laws were put in place to allow victims of drunk drivers as well as their families to hold the seller of the liquor responsible. According to this law, the establishment is considered to have caused the death or injury of the victim along with the person who was actually driving the vehicle.

Although most states have some variation of this law, liability could be limited if the patron or guest is not exhibiting obvious signs of intoxication. For example, states such as South Dakota and Nevada do not hold establishments financially or legally responsible if an inebriated guest is involved in a car accident and injures or kills someone.

Proving Negligence Can Be Tricky

Just because someone had a few drinks at a bar and then got into an accident afterward does not necessarily mean that the owner of the establishment can be held accountable. There are certain criteria that must be met in order to establish that the hosts contributed to the victim’s injury by serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person or a minor.

Typically, the blood alcohol level of the guest, as well as testimony from witnesses, will be used in order to determine whether or not the guest was still being served alcohol although they were clearly drunk. Furthermore, it must be proved that the injuries sustained were in direct correlation with the amount of alcohol being served and that the host knew the guest would be operating a motor vehicle.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to holding a person liable for the actions of their guests unless those guests are minors, it can be very difficult for anyone to sue a person for serving alcohol at a party.

While it is important that you serve alcohol responsibly and that your guests drink responsibly, proving that you are liable for the actions of adults won’t typically fly in court. However, you should still be mindful of the amount of alcohol you are serving to your guests, especially once they are clearly intoxicated.

In an instance where one of your guests does have too much to drink, you should consider calling them a taxi or allowing them to sleep off the alcohol rather than letting them get behind the wheel. While there might not be any legal repercussions should someone be injured or killed by one of your guests, the moral repercussions and guilt can be quite the punishment as well.

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