During the holiday seasons or summer barbeques, police expect an uptick in DUI accidents and arrests. Increased alcohol consumption is a given during end-of-year holidays; however, we all have a duty to drink responsibly. Unfortunately, statistics show that drunk drivers are responsible for a significant portion of traffic fatalities in December. In 2018, the NHTSA reported 839 deaths from DUI crashes in December. It stands to reason that many people will drink among friends and loved ones, but could party hosts be liable for damages if a party guest causes an accident?
The short answer is: maybe. First, we need to understand Florida’s dram shop law.
What Is the Dram Shop Law?
Dram shop laws hold businesses that serve alcohol liable for damages that occur when their patrons cause drunk driving accidents. If a person was injured or if property was damaged because the establishment served a minor or a person whom they knew to be “habitually addicted” to alcohol, Florida Statute 768.125 states that they can be held responsible.
In limited circumstances, victims of drunk driving accidents may seek compensation from a bartender, liquor store owner, or social host that fit these requirements. Establishments that serve alcohol may only be liable in these two specific circumstances of serving a minor or known addict. Thus, a bartender or social host who continues to serve a patron or guest who is visibly intoxicated may not be liable for damages.
Additionally, if a 19-year-old had drinks at a family member’s house and caused an accident while driving home, the adult who served him alcohol may also be personally partially liable for the cost of the accident if they knowingly and willfully served the minor. Damages may include money to pay for repairing or replacing the victim’s vehicle, medical bills, and lost wages. Additionally, they might face a license suspension or revocation under Statute 322.057.
Tips for Keeping Your Guests Safe
Party hosts should do everything possible to help their guests get to and from their events safely. If you’re hosting holiday events this year, consider the following tips:
- Have non-alcoholic drinks available for minors, designated drivers, and anyone who might have a drinking problem
- Serve small amounts of alcohol at a time
- Provide hearty food and avoid salty snacks (salty snacks may make your guests more thirsty, prompting them to drink more alcohol)
- Avoid serving guests who are visibly intoxicated
- Don’t serve alcohol to anyone you know is a minor
- Collect your guests’ car keys
- Stop serving alcohol one to two hours before the end of the party
- Offer to hail a cab or rideshare for your guests
- Offer your guests a place to sleep
Effective DUI Defense for Social Hosts and Bartenders in West Palm Beach
The last thing you should have to worry about during a holiday season is getting tied up in a criminal or civil matter due to celebrating with the people you care about. If you’ve been served with a lawsuit for providing alcohol to a guest or are at risk of losing your driver’s license for serving a minor, you need quality representation.
Attorney Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel has served the community of West Palm Beach for more than 30 years as a DUI defense attorney. He understands the complexities that are often involved in these cases and can guide you on the right course of action to protect your reputation and future. Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation or complete a contact form.