Texas Social Host Drunk Driver Law
If someone comes to my home or apartment, gets drunk and gets in a car accident, am I liable?
In Texas, we love getting to know our neighbors and inviting friends and family over to our homes. Social events often include adult beverages as well as serving good Southern food and snacks to spark enlightening conversation. While this a common activity in Texas all year around, there are some legal considerations you may want to keep in mind next time you plan a gathering.
One of the most common and serious of all of these considerations is in the form of a question: "If someone comes to my home or apartment, gets drunk, and gets in a car accident, can I be held liable?"
The answer to this question depends on what transpires in the event of a wreck and beforehand, as fault for an accident is dependent on several factors. As a host, there is a definite possibility of being held responsible if the evidence proves that the drunk driver had just left your event.
This possibility is why it’s always a good idea to have an attorney in mind in the unfortunate event of a calamity.
Texas Dram Shop Law
The lobbying efforts by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers over organizations over the past couple decades has resulted in many states implementing laws that allow for damage recovery from businesses and individuals who host social events—event that include serving alcohol—when a patron or attendee is involved in a drunk driving accident afterwards. This legal application is based on the law commonly known as "dram shop" code.
While businesses are generally held to a more strict standard because they are open to the public, private social hosts are still liable in similar situations when a guest drives away from the event intoxicated and is involved in a crash after departing. The concept is based on private individuals being responsible for what happens on their own premises if it results in injury to another person, even when the incident occurs elsewhere.
Restrictions on Social Host Liability
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code separates conditions for businesses and individual social hosts. Businesses may be held liable for injuries when an "obviously" intoxicated patron causes an injury, either at the establishment or shortly after leaving. Interestingly, this requirement for businesses doesn’t address age.
For private social hosts, this extended liability only applies to those who provide alcohol or other substances to a guest under 18 years of age when an accident resulting in injury occurs after departing. This is a significant alteration in the conditions necessary to sue, and an experienced Houston car accident attorney can investigate this potential evidence immediately when building a case for a defense.
Proving and Defending Your Dram Shop Claim
The legal burden for any successful injury claim is the plaintiff presenting proof that an injury occurred and the defendant was either directly or indirectly responsible. Social host lawsuits require the same sort of proof, but all material case facts can matter. One of the most important facts can be a timeline of events and the intoxication level of the driver.
An underage intoxicated driver, for instance, can be cited in Texas for DWI based on any concentration of alcohol in their system, but the breath analysis can matter when it’s included in the timeline of events.
In addition, the drunk driver may have also have left the event and continued drinking afterwards. Just as any other case, extenuating and mitigating evidence matters and can be found practically anywhere in an accident investigation.
Contact a Texas Car Accident Attorney
The optimum time to consider extended liability matters for hosting social events is during the planning stage. Establishing rules beforehand with guests and then enforcing the rules is important. This enforcement doesn’t have to put a damper on your party either.
For instance, consider having everyone put their keys in a secure basket that only you have access to at the beginning of the party. Or double check that guests leaving appear sober enough to drive. If not, call them a taxi or Uber.
If such an unfortunate event occurs, it’s essential to consult an experienced and aggressive Houston accident attorney like Neal Davis Law Firm who can defend your case and who fully understands how the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code applies to your social host liability case.