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Can A Party Host Be Held Liable For Drunk Driving In Ga?

By Butler Prather LLP on August 3, 2020

When most people think of drunk driving accidents, it is generally understood that liability for any injuries and property damage will fall on the intoxicated driver. After all, that is the person who made the choice to drink and drive and then get behind the wheel of the vehicle. However, while the majority of drunk driving cases do involve liability for the impaired driver, Georgia law also says that the host of a party could be held accountable for an accident under certain circumstances. Here, we want to discuss different scenarios in which a party host could be held liable for drunk driving crashes in Georgia.

GA drunk driving

What does the law say about social host liability?

When we turn to Georgia Code section 51-1-40, we will find what is commonly referred to as the state’s “dram shop law.” This law allows a person injured by a drunk driver to hold the seller of alcohol responsible in certain situations. This is typically meant to include a bar, restaurant, or liquor store if the establishment:

  • “willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully” serves alcohol to someone under the age of 21, OR
  • “knowingly” serves alcohol to a person who is visibly intoxicated, AND
  • the establishment knows that the minor or the intoxicated person would be operating a vehicle soon.

While this law is generally applied to the establishments mentioned above, the same statute can also be used to hold the hosts of social events responsible under the same circumstances. Anybody who hosts a party, whether in their home or at another location, could be held liable if they serve alcohol to a minor or a visibly intoxicated person who then causes a car accident.

However, proving liability in these instances could be difficult. The social host can only be held liable if they knew that the minor or the intoxicated person would soon be operating a motor vehicle.

For an example of how this law may apply, we can look at a theoretical scenario in which “Justin” decides to go to the home “Sheila,” his coworker who is hosting a barbecue. Justin has several drinks at the barbecue and becomes visibly intoxicated. However, Sheila continues to serve Justin alcoholic beverages. Eventually, Justin goes back to his vehicle to drive home but strikes another person after jumping a curb and driving onto a sidewalk. The injury victim may have a claim against both Justin and Sheila. Even though Sheila did not cause the accident, it could be argued that her actions contributed to the incident.

Types of compensation available in these cases

There may be various types of compensation available in claims made under the social host liability laws in Georgia. A victim who is injured by a drunk driver will typically pursue the same types of compensation against a negligent social host as they will against the drunk driver. This can include coverage for:

  • Any medical bills caused by the accident
  • Lost income and benefits if a victim cannot work
  • Property damage expenses
  • Pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life damages
  • Possible punitive damages against any grossly negative party involved

The total amount of compensation available for these cases will vary depending on the circumstances of each particular situation. It is strongly recommended that any accident victim seek assistance from a skilled Atlanta car accident attorney who can help prove the liability of both the driver and the social host.

Posted in: Car Accidents

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