If Someone Gets Drunk at My Party, Am I liable if They Get in a Crash?
When hosting a party, you want to make sure your guests have a good time. However, if someone gets drunk and injures themselves and others in a car accident, then you may wonder about the legal repercussions. On average, in 2018, 2.2% of adults in Missouri consume too much alcohol before driving, compared to 1.7% of adults nationwide.
Find out what responsibilities you have, as well as the dram shop and social host laws applicable to alcohol-related accidents in Missouri.
If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, you can also call one of our St. Louis car accident lawyers for a free consultation.
Under Missouri’s dram shop law, an injured party can sue a vendor of an alcohol establishment that served alcohol to someone under 21 or was visibly intoxicated.
A visibly intoxicated person is defined as an individual who is so inebriated that they have uncoordinated movements or are showing significant physical impairment. This does not include their blood alcohol content.
In Missouri, you can sue an alcohol seller only if they are licensed to serve intoxicating liquor for consumption on-premises. Specifically, this means bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages but not convenience stores and businesses selling packaged alcohol.
Under a 2005 amendment to Missouri’s R.S. Mo. 311.310, you may be held criminally liable for jail time or a fine if you knowingly allow a minor to become visibly intoxicated on your property.
You may be charged with a class B misdemeanor that includes up to six months of jail time or a fine of up to $1,000 if you knowingly enabled or failed to stop a juvenile from drinking alcohol on your property.
The penalty for any subsequent violation of this statute is a class A misdemeanor, which carries a one-year jail sentence or a fine of up to $2,000.
In a Missouri dram shop claim, plaintiffs may file for damages against the commercial establishment that serves alcohol if they were intoxicated and in a car accident. These damages can cover pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages. They may also help with repairing or replacing damaged property. A dram shop or other injury claim in Missouri must be filed within five years of the date of the injury.
However, according to Missouri’s R.S. MO. 311.310, social hosts are not civilly liable for injuries caused by their visibly intoxicated guests. Even when the victim of an accident is under the age of 21, Missouri doesn’t allow the victim to sue the social host. Missouri courts have upheld this in several court cases, including Andres v. Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity.
The Missouri Supreme Court gave their opinion that holding social hosts liable would be detrimental to “everyday social and family affairs” in the court case Andres v. Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity.
The court believed that people who host parties have no financial motivation to make guests drink more. They are also unable to monitor how much their guests have consumed. Finally, unlike commercial liquor vendors, they do not have adequate insurance coverage to offset the risks of providing alcoholic beverages to guests.
A complex web of laws governs Missouri’s dram shops, social hosts, and damages liability. It’s important to consult with an attorney who specializes in this area of law before making any decisions about how to proceed.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash caused by a drunk driver in Missouri, contact us to discuss your rights under the law and learn your legal options.