If you let guests drink and drive after leaving your New Year’s Eve party, you could be liable for any damages or losses they caused to others on the road. If this is something you are concerned about, continue reading to learn how to be a responsible party host and how to protect yourself from being liable for drunk driving accidents.
Social Host Liability
The phrase, “social host liability” is a term that describes a person being held legally accountable for the actions of an intoxicated guest who became intoxicated by indulging in the alcoholic beverages served at their party. It is your duty as a party host to serve alcohol responsibly to guests. Not only is this for everyone’s safety, but it is also to avoid legal accountability. The most common scenarios are drunk driving and wrongful death accidents, but property damage, assault, and other incidents are known to occur as well.
If a guest at your party drinks too much alcohol, and then they leave and cause harm to another person or property, the victims of the accident can pursue a lawsuit against you since you provided the alcohol to the guest. This is actually very common. In fact, it is possible for party hosts to face criminal charges depending on the severity of the accident and subsequent losses experienced by the victims.
Laws Vary From State to State
As mentioned, some states have laws governing social host liability, while others do not. States that have laws regarding the subject either assign or absolve part hosts of liability, and some states do not even have laws pertaining to social host liability. For example, California and New York are “No Liability” states. This means party hosts are not responsible for the actions of their intoxicated guests, so long as they are adults, because these states do not put the blame on the furnishing of alcohol, but rather, the consumption.
States like New Jersey have specific social party host laws regarding intoxicated driving. They put liability on party hosts under certain circumstances, such as serving an already “visibly intoxicated” guest and more. Furthermore, states like North Carolina do not have any laws or ordinances that address social party host liability. However, victims of drunk driving accidents have been successful at pursing negligence lawsuits against hosts that over-serve guests and then allow them to drive.
In all 50 states, serving alcohol to a minor, whether knowingly or not, imposes all sorts of serious liability on a party host. Not only can a host be financially responsible for any damages, losses, or injuries caused by an intoxicated minor, they can also be criminally charged.
Dram Shop Laws
Even if a person hosts a party at a public location, most states have Dram Shop laws in order. These laws hold establishments that serve alcohol liable for the actions of their intoxicated patrons. However, the circumstances to which these liabilities apply are very specific and vary among states. If a patron is overserved and injures someone, the victim can pursue a lawsuit against the drunk driver and the establishment.