Understanding Social Host Liability Laws in New Jersey
Posted on behalf of Lynch Law Firm on October 6, 2022 in Car Accidents News
In New Jersey, the host of a party or gathering who provides alcohol to event attendees may be held liable if an intoxicated guest injures someone. The laws that allow this are known as social host liability laws, and not every state has them.
If you were injured by an intoxicated driver who was at a house party, you may be able to pursue compensation from the party host who provided the driver with alcohol. However, social host liability cases can be incredibly complex. Therefore, you should strongly consider speaking to our New Jersey auto collision attorneys today to discuss your legal options. The consultation is free, and there are no upfront fees.
Below, we discuss the social host liability laws in New Jersey and the evidence needed to prove this type of case.
HOW IS SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY DIFFERENT FROM DRAM SHOP LIABILITY?
The terms dram shop and social host liability laws are often used interchangeably. However, these laws are uniquely different.
Social host liability means the host of a party or gathering may be liable for an intoxicated individual’s actions. While dram shop liability refers to the liability of parties that sell the alcohol.
A social host is usually a homeowner, event planner or someone who serves alcohol to guests rather than selling it. Dram shops are usually liquor stores, bars and restaurants.
There are 43 states that currently have dram shop liability laws, including New Jersey. The following states also have social host liability laws:
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
New Jersey is one of the few states where social host and dram shop liability laws are in effect and apply to all age groups. Not just minors.
WHAT ARE THE NEW JERSEY SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY LAWS?
New Jersey’s social host liability laws only allow an injured individual to pursue compensation from a social host in certain situations.
Specifically, if a social host provides alcohol to an intoxicated individual and that individual then causes an alcohol-related accident. In this situation, only the party injured by the intoxicated individual can seek damages from the social host. The intoxicated individual cannot pursue compensation for his or her own injuries.
For example, a person who is injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver coming from a house party may be able to file a claim against the social host.
HOW DO I GO ABOUT FILING A CLAIM?
To bring forth a claim against a social host, the party that suffered damages must be able to prove the following:
- The individual who caused the accident must have been visibly intoxicated in front of the host, or
- The event created an “unreasonable risk” of harm to life or property, and
- The injury was a direct result of a car accident caused by the intoxicated individual who was served by the social host
The first two requirements needed to bring a social host liability claim can be interpreted in different ways.
For one, “visibly intoxicated” is subjective language. What one person considers visibly intoxicated may not be so for another individual.
It may also be difficult to establish whether the person who caused the accident was visibly drunk while in the presence of the host.
The semantics of these requirements means the social host may have room to rebut any claims brought against him or her.
WHAT EVIDENCE CAN BE USED TO PROVE SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY?
If you were the victim of a drunk driver who was served alcohol at a party or other event, you may be able to use the following as evidence of the social host’s liability:
People who were at the same event as the drunk driver may be able to provide statements about what the individual’s behavior was like before leaving the event.
If the person was stumbling, slurring his or her words or otherwise acting in a manner consistent with alcohol intoxication, it may be difficult for the liable party to dispute the first requirement for a claim.
Eyewitnesses may also be able to help establish whether the individual who caused the crash was visibly intoxicated in the presence of the social host.
One common defense used by social hosts who may be liable for a drunk driving accident is that the person was not over the legal limit. This may easily be disputed by showing the police report that states what the blood-alcohol level of the driver was at the time of the collision.
NEED HELP FILING A CLAIM? CALL US TODAY
If you were injured by a drunk driver, you may have several legal options to consider when pursuing compensation for your damages. Let our experienced attorneys discuss those options with you to see what course of action may be available to you.
We offer a free legal consultation, and there are no upfront fees for our services. We only receive payment if we successfully recover compensation on your behalf.
No upfront costs. No risks. Call (800) 518-0508 today.