Young woman drinking while driving

Summer Parties and Intoxicated Drivers

Who is Responsible?

In this blog, we will discuss summer parties and who, in addition to the drunk driver, might be held responsible in a civil case after a serious car accident. Read on to learn who might have to pay for your recovery.

Careless Summer Drinking May Cause Permanent Suffering

While you might be fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles or the surrounding area and enjoy beautiful weather (mostly) all year long, summer remains a special time. Kids are out of school and adults tend to take more time off from work. Summertime affords a wonderful opportunity to get together with friends and family during cookouts and parties, during which attendees are likely to enjoy alcoholic beverages.

As long as everyone is a legal adult and imbibes responsibly, there’s no problem with kicking back and relaxing with a few beers. However, if partiers are enabled or encouraged to get wasted and then head home behind the wheel of a car? That’s when a line is crossed—one that can have serious ramifications for the driver, and for any innocent people on the road with them.

But what are the consequences to the hosts of the party and others in attendance? Could they be deemed responsible for any resulting automobile accidents?

When a Business Hosting a Party Overserves

In 2022, a law went into effect in California requiring bartenders, servers, and managers of businesses serving alcohol to the public to be trained to recognize whether a patron is intoxicated. This required training and certification applies to everyone involved in serving alcohol for the following businesses:

  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Wineries
  • Distilleries
  • Breweries and brew pubs

Not only must these employees learn to recognize the signs that someone is drunk; they are required to stop serving alcohol to that person immediately. This means if you and your friends or co-workers attend a summer party held at a winery or any other venue that serves alcohol, and they fail to cut off someone who they deem is intoxicated, they might be held responsible for any fallout.

For example, if the waiter keeps bringing your friend cocktails who is already drunk, and that friend then drives off and crashes into another vehicle on the way home, the waiter who overserved her—and the venue itself—will likely find themselves co-defendants in any civil action taken by those injured in the crash.

Private Party Host Responsibilities

What happens if a party is hosted at someone’s home and one or more attendees overdoes it, gets into their car, and ultimately injures or kills someone (or themselves)? It might surprise you to learn that California law has actually become more lenient over the years, as compared to some other states. To paraphrase Civil Code Section 1714, merely providing alcohol to an adult is not recognized as the cause of injuries or damages from a wreck—drinking too much is the cause and the fault of the driver alone.

However, there is an important exception to this law: if an adult hosting a backyard or other private party serves alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, they will be considered legally liable for any accident-related injuries and losses caused by that young person. This extends to the parents or legal guardians of the underaged drinker, or an adult friend who purchases alcohol for or serves alcohol to someone under 21.

So, if you are at a party and considering being the “cool” grownup who enables teens to drink, you had best be prepared to face serious consequences—possibly criminal along with civil—should that underaged person injure or kill someone while driving under the influence.

Legal vs. Ethical Responsibility

Please keep in mind that while California law might emphasize personal responsibility and place most of the burden of guilt on the person who chooses to drink and drive, that does not absolve you of the moral and ethical impetus to prevent someone from driving away from your party drunk. True, you probably won’t face a judge if your friend or loved one causes a DUI crash, but do you really want to bear the guilt of having been able to prevent someone you care about from ruining someone else’s life… or losing their own?

With this in mind, here are a few suggestions for preventing someone from driving off drunk from your summer gathering:

  • If you are the host and have room, offer crash space to any guests who want to imbibe without worrying about having to drive home. Include this offer—and why you’re making it—in the invitation so partiers can plan ahead
  • Consider hiring a car service or designate a driver to take any party attendees home (also include this offering in your invitation)
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you make available and stop providing more at least an hour or so before the party is scheduled to end
  • Make sure you have plenty of water, soft drinks, and other non-alcoholic alternatives available
  • Hire a bartender or catering service with the knowledge and understanding to recognize when a partier has had enough and empower them to cut that person off

Hire a Los Angeles DUI Car Accident Attorney

There should be consequences for the drunk driver and anyone else who contributed to your crash according to California law. An experienced and knowledgeable auto accident lawyer knows how to identify all parties responsible for a drunk driving accident that disrupts, or potentially ruins, your life.

Scott J. Corwin, A Professional Law Corporation will pursue as many defendants as can be identified and held liable for your medical bills, lost time from work, wrecked car, and more. Our attorney is available for a consultation at your convenience, so don’t hesitate—call today and find out what compensation you might be due after a DUI automobile accident.

Contact our office today by calling (310) 683-2300 or filling out the online contact form to discuss the details of your case and learn more about how we can help you. We offer free consultations, so there’s no reason not to reach out to someone from our team right away.