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Why Party Hosts May Be Liable for Drunk Driving Accidents

By DiBella Law Offices on April 27, 2021

In most car accidents, responsibility is pinned on the driver who caused the collision. Naturally, if someone acted recklessly, such as driving while intoxicated, then they should be the one responsible for paying for any victim’s medical bills and other damages.

But if that accident involved a intoxicated, underage driver, then the state of Massachusetts may also place liability on the adult who gave the teenager alcohol.

Liability in Teen Drunk Driving Cases

When drunk drivers cause accidents, courts will typically find them liable for all damages to people and property during the crash, but there are other factors that must be considered when a driver is underage. In a perfect system, drivers under the age of 21 would not be able to acquire alcohol, but the fact of the matter is that older friends or family members may purchase alcohol for them, or a business may sell it to them without checking for identification.

Selling alcohol to someone underage is a violation of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 138 Section 34 and makes the business liable to accident victims if that underage driver crashed into them. This is referred to as “dram shop liability” and is designed to compensate accident victims when a business contributes to a drunk driving accident. In addition to dram shop liability, it is also possible for a party host to share liability for an accident.

Massachusetts’s Social Host Ordinance

Massachusetts’s social host ordinance is an extension of the state’s dram shop liability laws. Under this ordinance, it is illegal for a party host to knowingly and intentionally allow underage guests to consume alcohol and operate a vehicle. If an underage drunk driver then caused an accident, the party’s host could be found liable in both a criminal and civil case. Party hosts are expected to manage who has access to alcohol and to keep underage guests from drinking.

In other areas of the country, such as San Diego, parents cannot be found liable if their child consumes alcohol on their property. However, in Massachusetts, there is no exception to the rule. If a parent knowingly or intentionally allows an underage driver to consume alcohol, then they can be found liable in a civil claim for damages.

Even if a parent was not directly overseeing a party, he could still be found liable if he did not reasonably control what was going on in his home. For example, if a teenager throws a party at their house and provides alcohol to his friends, then his parents can be found liable if an underage guest causes a drunk driving accident.

This law even extends to hotel rooms parents rent for their child; for example, if a mother rented a hotel room for her son’s prom night or school trip. Because the parent “owns” the room, she is responsible for all that occurs in it.

The goal of this law is to cut down on underage drunk driving and encourage party hosts to act responsibly. Hosts should carefully regulate who has access to alcohol, ID guests, and stop underage drinking as soon as they are made aware of it.

Getting Compensation After an Accident

Underage drunk driving accidents are some of the most serious cases we see here at DiBella Law Offices, P.C. We have represented many victims after collisions and have seen firsthand how physically, emotionally, and financially damaging they can be. If you were injured by a drunk driver in Boston, reach out to our experienced car accident attorneys. We can review the circumstances of your injuries and advocate for full compensation on your behalf. Call DiBella Law Offices, P.C., today at (617) 870-0907 to get a free case evaluation.