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When can those who overserve be held liable for a drunk driver?

On Behalf of | Sep 25, 2021 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

When someone leaves a bar, restaurant or even a private party at a home intoxicated, gets behind the wheel and then causes a car crash, victims and surviving loved ones often feel that the people who allowed them to drive when they were clearly in no condition to do so bear some responsibility. Some states have dram shop and social host liability laws to do just that.

Dram shop liability laws allow victims to hold establishments that serve or sell alcohol responsible for intentionally or negligently overserving customers who then are responsible for a crash or other incident that causes damage or injury. Social host laws allow civil litigation against hosts of private parties or functions who allow guests to drive away intoxicated. 

States with these laws still allow victims and loved ones to hold the drunk driver themselves liable (in addition to any criminal charges they face). However, they give them an additional avenue for seeking compensation and accountability

What does California law say?

California doesn’t allow either dram shop or social host liability when it comes to overserving adults. The law states, in part, that “the furnishing of alcoholic beverages is not the proximate cause of injuries resulting from intoxication, but rather the consumption of alcoholic beverages is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person.”

Regarding social host liability, it states that “no social host who furnishes alcoholic beverages to any person may be held legally accountable for damages suffered by that person, or for injury to the person or property of, or death of, any third person, resulting from the consumption of those beverages.”

The law is different when it comes to those under 21 years of age

There are exceptions for parents or other adults who provide alcohol to a person whom they knew or should have known, was under 21 if the alcohol was the cause of injury or death. In these cases, those who furnished the alcoholic beverage to someone who was too young to legally drink can face a civil lawsuit.

If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one in a crash caused by a drunk driver, you can still hold that driver liable. They will likely face criminal charges as well. However, a civil lawsuit can help you recover the compensation you need for medical bills, lost wages and additional expenses and damages.

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