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South Carolina Personal Injury Law Blog

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What are ‘social host liability’ laws?

If you’re involved in a car crash with a drunk driver who’s returning from a holiday party, can you hold the hosts of the party responsible along with the drunk driver? Fortunately, South Carolina has “social host liability” laws that apply to both adults and minors.

This means if someone encouraged — or even allowed — another person to drink excessively and that person injures or kills another person (or themselves) or causes property damage, they can be held liable. The same applies if a person gets stoned or otherwise impaired by drugs and then harms someone.

Proving that a host knew that a person was too impaired to drive may not always be easy. However, if you can show that they saw how much their guest was drinking, didn’t cut them off and then let them stumble out to their car and get behind the wheel, you may be able to hold them liable.

People who work in bars and restaurants are trained (or should be) to spot customers who have had too much to drink. They and their employers have a responsibility to prevent customers from getting behind the wheel when they’re impaired.

Last year, South Carolina enacted a dram shop law that requires all establishments that serve alcohol to have $1 million in liability insurance. Dram shop laws vary around the country. A “dram shop” is any business that serves or sells liquor. There is potential for victims to hold these businesses liable if they over serve someone and then don’t prevent them from driving. Being sanctioned for same can be an important motivator for servers to cut off patrons, take their keys and perhaps call the police to prevent a potential tragedy.

If you or a loved one has been injured or worse in a car crash with a drunk driver, it’s important to learn whether the host of a private gathering or employees of a bar or restaurant, could and should have known the driver’s impaired condition and taken steps to prevent the ensuing events. With experienced legal guidance, you can explore all of your options for seeking justice and compensation.