The National Safety Council estimates 438 people will die during the New Year’s Day holiday period this year. That estimate is based off the number of fatalities in the U.S. over the last five years. Of all the fatal accidents over the same period in 2016, 36 percent involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Those celebratory toasts with friends and family often lead to overindulgence by partygoers and overserving by hosts and bartenders. Our personal injury attorneys at Georgelis Injury Law Firm, P.C. have seen the devastating impact drunk driving can have on families, and we want to remind everyone to be safe this holiday season…and to keep the following in mind:
- Party Hosts can be Held Liable for Casualties Suffered as a Result of a DUI
- Establishments Serving Alcohol Have a Responsibility
- Damages for Alcohol-Related Accidents
- Designated Driver Options in Lancaster County
Party Hosts can be Held Liable for Casualties Suffered as a Result of a DUI
It’s referred to as the “Social Host” law and it makes a party host liable for the actions of intoxicated party guests not only during, but after they leave the party. The “Social Host” law applies to guests of all ages in most states; however, Pennsylvania’s law only applies if the host serves alcohol to a minor.
In our state, even if a minor consumes alcohol without the host’s knowledge or consent, the host can still be held accountable. So, if a minor drinks alcohol at your party and is injured or killed in an accident, the host can be held responsible. Similarly, if the minor who consumed alcohol injures or kills someone else, the host can be liable.
Because the “Social Host” law holds hosts accountable even if they are unaware the minor is drinking, it is critical to keep close tabs on bar areas and other guests if minors are present.
Establishments Serving Alcohol Have a Responsibility
Any establishment or individual with a liquor license can be held responsible if they serve a visibly intoxicated person, and then that person leaves the bar and causes an accident. It’s referred to as the “Dram Shop” law, and it can apply to other situations such as:
- When a visibly intoxicated person is served alcohol and then starts a fight. The injured person can sue the establishment for being negligent.
- When a visibly intoxicated person is served and then slips and falls on his way to his or her car. In this case, or any other case where the “overserved” patron is hurt, the patron themselves can sue the establishment.
Damages for Alcohol-Related Accidents
Both dram shop and social host liability claims for DUI crashes are civil claims, which mean the injured person files a lawsuit against the establishment or party host in court. Monetary awards are intended to compensate the injured person for losses including medical, hospital, rehabilitation and pharmacy bills, as well as lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering.
Civil injury claims must be formally filed—i.e., a lawsuit must be initiated—within the time limit set by the statute of limitations, which, in Pennsylvania, is two years from the date of injury.
Designated Driver Options in Lancaster County
Today, partygoers have more options than ever when it comes to a designated driver. Services such as Lyft, Uber and StearClear give drivers the option of having someone else do the driving, for a fee. The services are a more sophisticated taxi-service with GPS technology, which informs passengers of the nearest drivers, and then provides an estimated pick-up time.
Other programs, like Stearclear, allow people who started their night out driving to call in reinforcements to get both themselves and their car home. With a click of a button on their phone or computer, users can select the nearest two-person team and watch on GPS as they head their way. These programs have easy-to-use apps, and their cost varies depending upon the distance traveled.
Throughout the holidays, these drivers are busy, so sooner rather than later would be a good time to look into these programs to get ahead of the holiday rush. Some of the services give people the option of scheduling services ahead of time.
If you are having a party or will be serving patrons this holiday season, download one of these apps and have them, along with the phone numbers of taxi cab companies, on hand for your guests. There are other things you can do to protect yourself, including:
- Have non-alcoholic beverages on hand
- Stop serving alcohol a few hours before the party ends
- Have plenty of food on hand
- Take vehicle keys at the door and return them only to those who are able to safely drive
- Don’t over-indulge yourself—a host should always be able to properly monitor his or her guests
- Give your guests the option to spend the night at your residence if they need to
This holiday season, our attorneys at Georgelis Injury Law Firm, P.C. hope we’ve given drivers, establishments and party hosts a few things to think about. We hope party-goers take advantage of the many services out there to keep everyone safe on the roads. And, we hope your life is never touched by a DUI-related crash.
But if it is—or if you or someone you know is seriously injured in a crash because of the negligence of a drunk driver—we are here to help. Call Georgelis First at 1-800-HURT-NOW. Our experienced personal injury lawyers have handled numerous accident claims arising from drunk driving or driving while impaired. We’re here 24/7/365, and there is never a fee unless we get money for you.
Be safe this holiday season—and we wish everyone a Happy New Year!