Duty of Care in Drunk Driving Accidents

by | Feb 22, 2017 | Premises Laws

Duty of Care in Drunk Driving Accidents

Our culture celebrates many events with alcohol: weddings, birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties and even funerals. We consume liquor at company parties, restaurant happy hours and backyard barbeques.

It’s little wonder that our nation tops the list for the most drunk driving accidents among wealthy countries, according to a 2016 study. Our laws punish the drunk driver in criminal court but it’s possible for accident victims to sue the drunk driver in civil court for damages as well. The list of culpable parties extends beyond the drinker, though to those who served the drunk driver. Is it possible to hold everyone involved responsible for the drunk driving car accident?

Commercial and Social Host Liability

Commercial Liability

Since a 1973 Supreme Court judgement, commercial host liability laws have been applied to bars, taverns or any other business that sells liquor. The Supreme Court found that businesses that served alcohol have a duty to their patrons to make sure they didn’t harm themselves or others. Drinking establishments have this responsibility because of the “special relationship” they have with their customers. In this relationship, the business makes money from liquor consumption, an activity that impairs drinkers’ judgements. Because it’s their business to serve people intoxicants, the business must to monitor its patrons for drunkenness, not serve people who are obviously drunk and take action to make sure drinkers don’t hurt themselves or others. Victims of drunk driving accidents have successfully sued drinking establishments and bartenders in civil .

Social Host Liability

Of course, not all drunk drivers become intoxicated at bars or restaurants. Some attend private parties where they watch hockey games, play poker or celebrate holidays. Is the host of a New Year’s Eve house party responsible for drunken guests who get into a car accident?

The law is less clear about social hosts’ liability when an intoxicated guest causes a car accident. Courts have found that social hosts don’t have the same duty of care as commercial hosts because they don’t make money from liquor consumption. In general, the Courts have held that a social host does not have a duty of care to members of the public that may be injured by the conduct of a guest.The Courts have allowed, however, that in certain cases where the host does something more than simply host a party at which alcohol is served there can be a duty owed to the accident victims.

Drunk Driving Accident Victims Should Seek Legal Help

It’s clear businesses that sell alcohol can be held accountable when a drunken patron causes a traffic accident. It’s less clear if a social host who served the drunk driver alcohol can be held responsible for damages in civil court. If you’ve been involved in a drunk driving accident, it’s time to call a lawyer. Be sure to hire a legal expert who specializes in premises law as it relates to liquor consumption and duty of care. You’ll find those specialized solicitors at Mackesy Smye in Hamilton, where we represent clients in cases involving liquor consumption every day.

Click the blue button below to set up a free consultation with one of our lawyers so we can begin to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions and secure compensation for your injuries, lost wages and medical bills.

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