When someone drinks too much but decides to get behind the wheel anyway, the likelihood that they will injure or kill someone in an accident is very high. Drunk driving is illegal, and no one can honestly claim that they weren’t aware of the dangers. As such, the drunk driver must assume nearly all the blame and the related criminal and civil consequences.
But are any other parties at fault? Can a bar be held liable for overserving someone who is obviously drunk? What about a “social host,” who serves alcohol to guests in their own home? Statutes related to these scenarios are referred to as dram shop laws, and most states have enacted some form of them. California’s laws have changed significantly over the years, but there are some scenarios in which both alcohol vendors and social hosts can be held liable.
When can bars and alcohol vendors be sued for DUI accidents?
California’s dram shop laws (or at least the courts’ interpretation of them) used to be very friendly to plaintiffs and not so friendly to “dram shops” that overserved patrons. In 2012, however, the state legislature enacted changes to largely shield alcohol sellers from liability.
When passing California Civil Code 1714, lawmakers wanted to make it clear that consumption of alcoholic beverages is the “proximate cause” of a drunk driving accident, not the serving of alcohol.
That being said, businesses can be held liable in one scenario, as outlined in California Business and Professions Code section 25602.1. Under this code, licensed alcohol vendors can be sued for serving or otherwise providing alcohol to an “obviously intoxicated minor.” In this case, minor refers to anyone below the legal drinking age of 21 years old.
What about social hosts who overserve guests?
California Civil Code 1714 shields people who serve alcohol to guests in their own home from liability but includes an exception for guests under age 21. If a person intentionally provides alcohol to someone that they know (or should know) to be under 21 years of age, they can be sued for injuries caused by the person whom they served. In fact, they can even be sued by the person they served for injuries that resulted from the consumption of alcohol.
After a drunk driving accident, discuss your legal options with an experienced attorney
Drunk driving accidents are, sadly, very common in California. If you were injured by a dangerous drunk driver, please contact Woods Williford, P.C., to take advantage of a free initial consultation. Our attorneys have decades of experience in personal injury law, and we can help you explore your all of your legal options for seeking compensation and accountability.