Alcohol-Related Injuries at Parties: Can the Hosts be Held Accountable?

by Staff Blogger | February 7th, 2024

Many states have laws that hold party hosts responsible for accidents resulting from the consumption of alcohol. California is different. The host is generally not liable for the actions of an intoxicated party guest as long as they are of the legal drinking age. Also, in the US, hosts of social events are typically governed by more lenient laws than commercial establishments.

There are, however, exceptions where a host may be liable for first and third-party injuries. One major caveat to these exceptions is that the victim must be able to prove that the host’s actions were the primary cause of their injuries. Only a seasoned lawyer can fight for victims when the system works against them. You can find an experienced Modesto personal injury attorney at Berg Injury Lawyers.

This article explains California laws regarding alcohol-related injuries and will help point victims in the right direction.

What Does California Law Say About Alcohol-Related Injuries? 

Victims of alcohol-related accidents may feel helpless when they have to make an unwilling host own up to their negligence.

For one, California law generally protects hosts of private social gatherings. The law states that everyone is responsible for their “own actions.” Put simply, if a drunk person causes an injury, the victim may only be able to pursue legal action against that person and not the person who served them alcohol. It is very common for event hosts to deny responsibility based on this argument.

Also, “furnishing” alcohol is rarely considered the primary cause of an injury. Instead, it’s usually the consumption of the alcohol that matters.

In the case of drunk driving accidents, for example, a victim wishing to file an injury claim against the host would have to prove the host negligently over-served an already visibly intoxicated party guest. Even then, the host may argue that controlling someone else’s actions was not their responsibility. As we’ve already mentioned, however, there are some exceptions to these laws that only an attorney can work through.

Which Arguments Can Your Personal Injury Attorney Use? 

The advantage of having an attorney represent victims during settlement negotiations and litigation is that lawyers know their way around the legal system. With a skilled lawyer,injured victims may still be able to receive damages, even in cases where the odds of success seem low.

Was the Drunk Person a Minor?

The law mentioned above has one huge caveat. Responsibility shifts when the drunk person who caused injury to another is under 21 years old (California Civil Code 1714). Victims can, therefore, hold a host liable who knowingly furnished alcoholic beverages to an underage guest or family member.

Your lawyer must demonstrate that the host knowingly provided alcohol to the underage individual. The court will consider whether the host knew or should have known that the person was not of drinking age and if they failed to supervise them to prevent alcohol consumption.

Did the Social Host Charge an Entry Fee?

If your lawyer can prove that a host’s actions negate their social host immunity, you may have a case under the state’s Dram Shop Liability laws.

Although California generally does not hold bars and restaurants that serve alcohol liable for a drunk adult’s actions, they can be liable if the intoxicated person is a minor or if the person was visibly intoxicated before they decided to serve them more alcohol.

Can Premises Liability Come to the Victim’s Aid? 

If another hazard, other than alcohol, was to blame for the accident, victims may be entitled to compensation.

Picture the following scenario: A visibly intoxicated party guest loses their footing and knocks you to the ground, causing injury to you both. On the surface, the guest may appear liable. But what if, upon closer examination, you find out that the drunk guest slipped and fell because the floor was wet and slippery? In this scenario, the host may be liable.

California premises liability law requires that homeowners ensure the reasonable safety of their visitors. In a case like this, your attorney can make the homeowner pay for their failure to keep their property safe for you and other guests. Even if the homeowner believes the intoxicated guest was partially responsible for their own injury, the homeowner may still be liable for damages proportional to their contribution to the guest’s injury.

When Should Injured Victims Contact an Attorney for Alcohol-Related Injuries at Parties? 

Contacting a Modesto personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident can make a huge difference in the outcome of a victim’s claim.

Early consultation means victims still have a clear recollection of the events surrounding the accident. Witness statements are likely more reliable at the time. In addition, the evidence is fresh, and the defendant has had limited time to alter the accident scene.

It’s important to let an experienced lawyer review your case as soon as possible after your injury. You will not pay for a consultation or case review with Berg Injury Lawyers.

It can be tricky for alcohol-related injury victims to convince party hosts’ homeowners insurance companies or juries that the host’s negligence caused their injuries. But by building a solid case, it is possible.

Victims should not give up on their cases before contacting us. We offer a No Fee Guarantee®, meaning our clients will not be charged a fee for our services unless they receive compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation.