Who Is Liable for a Drunk Driving Accident?

Drunk driving accidents can involve severe injuries sustained by the intoxicated driver as well as any innocent victims. Tragically, many fatal drunk driving accidents could have been avoided had the driver not been intoxicated when they decided to get behind the wheel. While the driver who voluntarily becomes intoxicated and chooses to drive is primarily responsible for the resulting injuries of a traffic accident they negligently caused, do other parties share liability with the intoxicated driver? This article discusses New York laws that establish liability for damages caused by drunk driving accidents.

Liability of Liquor Sellers

Under Section 11-101 of New York’s General Obligation Laws, the owner of a restaurant, bar, or tavern may be held liable for injuries that result from a drunk driving accident involving someone to whom they served an alcoholic beverage. This law is also referred to as the Dram Shop Act.

Under the New York Dram Shop Act, an injured victim must prove 4 elements to hold sellers of alcohol liable for serving alcohol to the at-fault driver:

  1. Unlawful sale;
  2. Of alcohol;
  3. To an intoxicated person, who;
  4. Caused their injury.

However, if the injured plaintiff was a passenger of the intoxicated driver’s vehicle, they may not recover damages if they caused, procured, or encouraged the driver’s intoxication. An injured drunk driver does not have a right to recover damages from a liquor seller. However, the parents of the intoxicated driver may bring a claim under the Dram Shop Act. The defendant liquor seller may not claim that the drunk driver’s negligence contributed to their injury.

Proof of Intoxication

Liability under the Dram Shop Act requires the plaintiff to prove that drunk driver was visibly intoxicated when the defendant liquor seller served them alcohol. Security footage from the liquor-selling establishment and eye witness testimony can be used to show the drunk driver’s level of intoxication.

Liability of Social Hosts

In general, social hosts have a duty to control third parties if they had an opportunity to do so and knew, or should have known, that they exercising such control was necessary to prevent foreseeable injuries. Thus, a person who hosts a party and provides guests with alcoholic beverages is liable for injuries caused by an intoxicated guest. Social hosts are also liable to intoxicated minors who injure themselves. However, a voluntarily intoxicated adult may not sue the social host who provided them with alcoholic drinks.

However, the social host’s obligation to control an intoxicated guest does not extend beyond the host’s property. Furthermore, a social host does not have a duty to prevent drunk guests from leaving the premises.

Injured by a Drunk Driver? Koenigsberg & Associates Law Offices Can Help

If a drunk driver injured you or a loved one, you should consult the professional legal advice of a Brooklyn drunk driving accident attorney with experience in car accident injury cases. At Koenigsberg & Associates Law Offices, we have more than 2 decades of experience litigating personal injury cases, including drunk driving accident cases. We are dedicated to zealously advocating for your right to hold the party responsible for causing you or your loved one’s injury accountable for their actions – whether they are a bar, restaurant, or individual.

For more information, please call Koenigsberg & Associates Law Offices at (718) 690-3132 or contact us online today!