Recently we discussed dram shop laws and your legal options if you are involved in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver who was overserved at a local bar or restaurant during a holiday party. Now we are going to talk about your rights under the same scenario except the driver became intoxicated at a party hosted by a private individual.
South Carolina is one of only 24 states that have enacted social host liability laws. Many people assume these laws apply to any situation where a person becomes intoxicated at a private party and is then involved in an accident. While this is how the law works in some states, here in South Carolina this law only applies to underage drinkers.
The legal drinking age in our state is 21 and often, especially during the holidays and especially at a party hosted in a private home with a large number of guests in attendance, a minor may be consuming alcoholic beverages without the host being aware of it. Or the host might not realize the teen is underage. Then there are some cases where hosts have been found to permit underage drinking because they:
- Don’t care the teen is under the legal drinking age.
- They want to be thought of as the “cool” parent, uncle, host etc.
- They could originally be from a state which allows underage drinking in a private residence.
Rather than focusing on whether or not the host was cognizant of the age of the minor, most states with social host liability laws concentrate on if the host was aware the guest had become intoxicated and should not have consumed any additional alcohol.
Unfortunately, presently in the state of South Carolina there is no specific liability law when a host serves alcohol to an intoxicated adult and then that person drives drunk and is involved in an accident. We can only assume this is because an adult as opposed to an underage minor should have the maturity and ability to understand how detrimental the consequences of driving while intoxicated can be.
During a private party held in an individual’s home when a consenting adult drinks to the point of intoxication, then gets behind the wheel of their car and causes an accident, there will be the legal ramifications of driving under the influence. Any costs associated with personal injury and/or property damage will be covered under the drunk driver’s automobile liability insurance. If the driver is an uninsured or underinsured motorist then your automobile insurance possibly could cover some of the costs. It then may be necessary to file a civil suit against the drunk driver to recoup expenses not covered under insurance and also for pain, suffering and emotional distress.
While there are no specific laws on the books, a lawsuit can also be brought against the party host if it can be proven they either willingly continued to serve alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person and/or if they were aware this person was under the influence and was about to get behind the wheel. Often these legal actions are filed as negligence claims.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an automobile accident caused by a drunk driver please contact Dan Pruitt Law Firm today. We want to make sure you are fully compensated and that all your legal rights are protected. You can rest easy when you consult with Dan Pruitt. We never represent drivers who have been charged with driving under the influence, only the victims of these often life altering accidents.