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Is a Party Host Liable for a Guest’s Drunk Driving Accident?

As New Year’s approaches and the stressful holiday season comes to a close, many people may be unwinding with an alcoholic beverage or two. Current pandemic-related restrictions in Ontario limit the number of people who can gather indoors, but if you are planning to attend a small New Year’s party, there are some perennial safety concerns to keep in mind. 

According to MADD Canada, 55% of car accidents involve the consumption of drugs and/or alcohol. Young people, especially, have the highest death rates on the road – motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of deaths for those 16-25 years old. And this year, with alcohol consumption habits shifting due to the pandemic, we may have fallen out of practice planning safe ways home. 

Of course, we all know that getting behind the wheel while intoxicated can lead to a severe motor vehicle accident. But as many of us consider our public safety responsibilities in this time of collective crisis, another question arises: if someone is injured in a drunk-driving incident after a party, can the party host be held liable? 

The short answer: maybe. 

 The Facts About Impaired Driving 

By Canadian law, the police can deem a driver impaired if they are driving in a visibly unsafe manner, or if they have more than 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. In a report from Transport Canada, coroners recorded almost 40% of fatally injured drivers had some degree of alcohol in their system.  

On average, ten Canadians an hour are charged or have their licenses suspended as a result of impaired driving. Between March 2020 and February 2021, police from regions across Canada reported 57,115 impaired driving incidents.  

Furthermore, the stress and isolation of the pandemic has been linked to an increase in the consumption of alcohol for at-risk individuals. It has been a while since friends have been able to regularly gather in person. People’s tolerances have changed, and some might have gotten used to drinking at home, without needing to plan a designated driver. 

A Host’s Responsibilities 

You may have heard of servers and bartenders being legally bound to “cut off” or deny alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons. In a commercial context, a server or bar can be sued even if they did not supply most of the drinker’s alcohol. For instance, if a bartender serves a customer who is already intoxicated and that inebriated patron gets behind the wheel and causes a severe crash, the bar could be held liable for the accident victim’s injuries and end up paying significant amounts in damages. 

With private gatherings, the rules are a little greyer. Commerical host liability laws were drafted with restaurants and bars in mind, but we can make an argument for our social responsibility to keep each other from driving while intoxicated. After all, the host of a private party is more likely to know their guests’ drinking habits better than a server knows their patrons. There might be a personal connection that can make it easier to, say, take away your friend’s car keys, call them a cab, or invite them to stay the night.  

Legally, most of the time, the host of a private party is not expected to monitor their guests’ drinking. In a landmark case, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a social host is not responsible for injuries caused to others by their guests’ accidents, even if they provided the alcohol. However, a party host might be liable if they: 

  • Intentionally served alcohol to a guest who was already visibly intoxicated, who they knew planned to drive later. 
  • Were in a position of authority or supervision (e.g., parent, coach, teacher, etc.) to the guest in question. 
  • Served alcohol in a public or commercial function that implied responsibility for the public’s well-being. 

As you can see, there are some situations in which a host may be liable for damages incurred by the victims of accidents caused by their guests. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, call a personal injury lawyer to talk through the specifics of your unique case. Preszler Injury Lawyers provide a free initial consultation, no strings attached. 

Duty of Care 

What is a “duty of care” in Ontario law? Essentially, this means taking reasonable precautions to make sure others do not get hurt. For example, people who own or operate motor vehicles on the province’s roads and highways owe a duty of care to other road-users. This means they have a legal responsibility to drive with reasonable care and attention to others on the road, so as to reduce the risk of injury-causing accidents.  

The owners and occupiers of residential properties are also required to fulfil a duty of care to anyone visiting their premises. Most often, that means occupiers must take preventative measures to adequately address maintenance issues or hazards on their property. But how does this duty of care extend to party hosts providing alcohol to their guests? If a party host has a friend with a history of drinking and driving, but nevertheless provides them with alcohol before they drive home, would the party host be partly to blame for an accident caused by their friend’s inebriation? 

If you have been injured because of events that transpired at a party and intend to pursue a civil claim against the party’s host, by working with a personal injury lawyer, you may be able to prove that: 

  • The host owed you a duty of care 
  • The host, through wrongful actions or inactions, breached that duty of care 
  • Because of the host’s breach, you were injured in an accident 
  • As a result of your injuries, you incurred financial losses. 

After being injured in a collision caused by an intoxicated driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Whether you are eligible to pursue damages from the host of a party who supplied alcohol to the at-fault driver before the accident depends greatly on the circumstances of your case. To review the details of your collision and receive personalized legal advice, contact Preszler Injury Lawyers by calling 1-800-JUSTICE. 

Common Examples of Negligence 

Drunk driving is responsible for about 22% of traffic fatalities in Ontario. To get behind the wheel inebriated is a form of negligence, meaning the failure to exercise the level of care of a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances. Other examples of negligence include running a red light, driving over the speed limit, texting while driving, or violating other traffic laws. 

Someone who gives alcohol to a minor who then drives might be considered negligent. There have been cases where homeowners have been sued after teenagers were injured or killed in drunk-driving accidents after partying at a friend’s house. As with all legal matters, each case is different. Working with a personal injury lawyer can help clarify the many moving parts of Ontario liability law. 

If you were injured in an accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you may be eligible to pursue compensation by filing a civil claim against them and, in very specific circumstances, against the party or entity that provided them with alcohol. To discuss the details of your accident and receive personalized legal advice about options for financial recovery that might be available to you, schedule a free initial consultation with Preszler Injury Lawyers.

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

Determining liability after an injury-causing accident can be a complicated, involved process. The nuances of any given case are unique. However, when an intoxicated driver causes an accident, one thing is certain: the at-fault driver and any other parties whose negligence played a role in causing the collision should be held responsible.  

If you have been involved in a car accident, an Ontario personal injury lawyer might be able to help you seek damages against the people responsible. Call Preszler Injury Lawyers today to book your free initial consultation.

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