Can Serving Alcohol Create Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents?

Learn who you can sue after an accident caused by a drunk driver

Every 51 minutes, someone is killed in a drunk driving accident in America. Although drunk driving fatalities are actually on the decline, having fallen by 33 percent in the past 30 years, drunk driving accidents continue to be a serious problem. They cause about $52 billion in damages every year, not to mention unquantifiable suffering for families.

Since it is common knowledge that driving while impaired by alcohol is dangerous, it makes sense that individuals who drink and drive should be held liable for the cost of any accidents that their choices may cause.

But what about individuals who furnish alcohol to individuals who later drink and drive? Can they be held liable for accidents that those drivers cause?

The answer is usually no.

Except for a brief period in the 1970s, California has followed the “common law” on this subject. The common law is a tradition of legal principles dating back to the 1200s in England. Under common law, bartenders and other individuals have immunity from liability for accidents caused by drivers who drink at their establishments. In other words, even though driving home drunk is a foreseeable consequence of being served alcohol at a bar, this is not enough to create liability. The California Legislature was clear in specifying that it is the consumption of alcohol, not the serving of alcohol, that causes accidents.

However, there is a major exception to common law immunity for furnishing alcohol: it does not apply to minors.

If an establishment serves alcohol to a minor, or an adult furnishes alcohol to a minor at their home, they can be held liable for any accidents that the minor may cause. This includes accidents in which the minor only injures themselves.

Have You Been Injured by a Drunk Underage Driver?

If you have been injured by a drunk driver who was under 21, it is well worth exploring how the minor got drunk in the first place. If you can prove that someone knowingly furnished alcohol to the minor, you may be able to recover compensation from both the minor’s car insurance company and the provider of the alcohol.

These kinds of cases can be complex, so it is important to hire a skilled and experienced car accident injury attorney to represent you. At The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker, we know the law and we know how to help you secure the full and fair compensation you deserve following any kind of accident that was not your fault. To learn more, call us at 800-333-0000 for a free consultation.