Can You Get in Trouble for Letting Someone Drive Drunk?

a drunk driver travels in Bakersfield | The Law Offices of Mickey Fine

The consequences of letting someone drive drunk can be catastrophic. While most personal injury cases focus on the injured party and the person who caused them harm, “dram shop” and “social host” laws involve claims against a third party for their part in a drunk driving accident. 

What if bartenders, homeowners, and other persons serve drinks to an intoxicated person before they get behind the wheel and cause a crash? These people could be held partially liable for the injuries or deaths in a drunk driving accident for providing alcohol to the driver. 

Dram shop and social host laws vary by state. California Law limits these third-party liability cases for alcohol-related car accidents, absolving bartenders, party hosts, restaurant owners, and others for their part in serving the intoxicated driver. However, there are exceptions to California laws for letting someone drive drunk. 

The Law Offices of Mickey Fine understand the intricacies of California laws and statutes and can determine if you have a case against a third party for a drunk driving collision. Our attorney has over 30 years of experience helping injured victims and their families reach settlements and successful verdicts

California Social Host Liability Law 

Per California Law, furnishing alcohol “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.” That legalese means that the person serving the alcohol is not to blame because the act of consuming alcohol leads to drunk driving crashes and injuries. This law makes it challenging for injured parties to pursue a third-party claim against the person or business who served the drunk driver alcohol, except for two stipulations: 

  1. An adult, guardian, or parent knowingly gives someone under 21 alcohol at their residence. These social hosts can be held responsible for the intoxicated underage guest’s actions, with liability that extends to injuries caused by the underage drinking. Injured parties in a DUI car accident caused by an underage, intoxicated driver can pursue a third-party lawsuit against the person(s) who served them alcohol. 
  2. An employee or business owner at a place licensed to serve, provide or otherwise sell alcohol provides alcoholic beverages to someone who is obviously an intoxicated minor (under 18 years old). These persons can be held liable for injuries or deaths caused by the intoxicated minor, including bars, liquor stores, restaurants, and similar establishments. 

If these exceptions apply to your drunk driving accident, the business or party host may be legally responsible for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damage, and other losses caused by the crash.

Holding Drunk Drivers Accountable for Accidents 

When you or a loved one is injured in a drunk driving accident, you can pursue a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party whether or not they were convicted, charged, or arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). While a DUI conviction strengthens your claim, California Law stipulates that you only have to prove the drunk driver was negligent and failed to use reasonable care to avoid harming others by getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. 

The “legal limit” for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in California is .08% for adults, .05% for drivers under 21, and .04% for commercial vehicles and Uber, Lyft, or taxi drivers. Anyone who exceeds the BAC limit, refuses to take a DUI chemical test to determine BAC, or is obviously under the influence is negligent and guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol. Injured victims can seek economic, non-economic, and punitive damages from drunk drivers. Punitive damages are monetary fines meant to deter the driver from driving drunk in the future. 

Holding Third-Parties Responsible for Drunk Driving Accidents 

Holding a third-party responsible for letting someone drive drunk can be challenging and only applies if the driver who caused the crash was under 21 and served by an adult host or an obviously intoxicated minor (under 18) was served alcohol at an establishment with a liquor license. These situations require an experienced attorney. The injuries and deaths caused by the drunk driver’s actions can have lifelong consequences for injured victims and their families. Third-party lawsuits against the social host, bartender, or other liable person hold them accountable for their part in the drunk driving accident. 

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help After a Drunk Driving Accident? 

Third-party lawsuits are civil claims that require a personal injury attorney who understands the law and when exceptions apply to dram shop or social host liability cases. Your attorney builds your case so you can focus on recovering from your injuries or mourning the loss of a loved one who was fatally injured in the drunk driving crash. They compile evidence, police reports, medical records, and witness testimony to form a compelling case and are ready to take it to trial if necessary. Plaintiffs with an attorney typically reach higher settlements and court judgments than people without a personal injury lawyer. 

Call a Bakersfield Car Accident Lawyer for Free

Letting someone drive drunk is never a good idea. If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident with a drunk driver, contact the Law Offices of Mickey Fine in Bakersfield, California. Schedule a free consultation in person or over the phone by calling (661) 333-3333.

Car Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on