Drunk driving is an illegal, reckless and extremely dangerous practice in Texas. In 2019, 886 Texans died in motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers. This was one-fourth of all people killed in car accidents in Texas in 2019. While many victims assume the defendant of a drunk driving accident claim will be the drunk driver, other parties may also bear liability for the crash. This could include the host of a party.
Multiple parties may be at fault for contributing to a driving under the influence (DUI) accident. In some states, this can include the person or party that supplied the drunk driver with alcohol the night of the accident. If a party had a responsibility not to serve the person for some reason – such as laws in Texas against giving alcohol to minors – and breached this duty of care, he or she could bear at least partial liability for a related DUI accident.
Many states have liability laws that hold dram shops (establishments that serve alcohol) responsible for overserving patrons. In these states, a bar or restaurant that served alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person could be liable for the actions and wrongdoings of that person, including driving drunk and causing an accident. Social host liability laws are not the same as dram shop laws, however. Some states have dram shop liability laws but do not hold social hosts to the same standards, or vice versa.
Texas is a social host liability state. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Chapter 2 contains the state’s dram shop and social host liability laws. These laws make it easier to hold a dram shop liable for a drunken person’s misconduct than a social host. Holding a party host liable for drunk driving in Texas is still possible, however, under certain circumstances.
Texas’ social host liability law states that an adult 21 years old or older will be responsible for the damages an intoxicated minor (someone under the age of 18) causes as long as certain exceptions do not apply. First, the host of the party or gathering must not be the minor’s parent, spouse or legal guardian. Second, the adult must have knowingly served – or allowed someone else to serve – the minor one or more alcoholic beverages that contributed to his or her intoxication while on the adult’s owned or leased premises.
It can be difficult to bring a claim against a social host for a DUI accident in Texas. To have a valid claim, you or a lawyer must prove the host knew or reasonably should have known the intoxicated person was a minor and willfully provided that minor alcohol to the extent that he or she presented a danger to him/herself and others. If the drunk driver was over the age of 18, you typically will not be able to hold the social host responsible for damages. A host also will not be liable for a DUI accident for serving his or her spouse, child or court-appointed charge alcoholic beverages.
If the courts find the social host more than 50% responsible for the drunk driving accident, both the host and the drunk driver could owe you the full amount of your damages under Texas’ modified joint and several liability law. This could increase the financial recovery you receive for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and vehicle damages. Holding a social host accountable could also be important if the drunk driver does not have enough insurance to fully cover your damages. It is important to explore your right to hold a party host liable with help from a DUI accident attorney in Texas. You may require a lawyer’s assistance in proving social host liability.