What better way to watch the Super Bowl than with good friends, food, and beer. So, you invite your friends over and spend the day eating and drinking while getting pumped up for the big game.
The party is a hit and the game is one for the ages. After the game, having to get up early Monday morning, your friends start to gather their belongings and prepare to leave. Unfortunately, a guest has had too much to drink. You know he’s drunk and you try and stop him, you even offer to call him a taxi cab. He ignores you and gets behind the wheel of his car. As he heads home he loses control and crosses the center line hitting another driver head-on. The other driver is seriously injured.
As an attorney who represents those killed by drunk drivers, I see the impact of these types of crashes all too often.
Statistics consistently show that Super Bowl Sunday tops the charts with July 4th and New Year’s Day as having the drunkest drivers on the road. Some statistics show that the number of drunk drivers on the road are double that of any other Sunday during the months of January and February. According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, nearly half of all automobile accident fatalities occurring on Super Bowl Sunday involve alcohol. This makes Super Bowl Sunday one of the deadliest days on the road for drivers.
As the host of a party where alcohol is being served, what is your responsibility? Can you be held liable for the other driver’s injuries?
As is usually the case when trying to answer a legal question, it depends.
This area of the law is commonly referred to as “social host responsibility.” West Virginia and Ohio deal with this issue in basically the same manner. The short answer is that neither state recognizes social host responsibility. That is, you cannot be held accountable for the other driver’s injuries caused by your drunken guest. Generally, however, the inquiry does not stop there. There are circumstances under which you could be held liable. For example, if you are selling the alcohol, the guest is a minor, or you were actively encouraging your guest to drink when you knew he was drunk and likely to drive his car home. Ultimately, the facts will determine whether you fall into one of these “exceptions.”
Regardless of the law, your best bet is to be careful and use common sense because the risks are simply not worth it.
Ask your friends to designate a driver to help your guests get home. Make sure you have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food and encourage your guests to pace themselves. If someone is drunk, offer to call them a cab or make arrangements to get them home safely. Lastly, under no circumstances should you serve alcohol to minors.
Enjoy the game and together let’s make sure everyone gets home safely.
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