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How Social Host Liability Applies to Pennsylvania Alcohol-Related Accidents

Town Law Publishing March 14, 2023

Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of road accidents and fatalities in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 10,000 people die in alcohol-related accidents every year. In Pennsylvania, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 25% of all traffic fatalities in 2019. While many focus on the driver who caused the accident, there is another party that could be held liable for the damages: the social host. This blog will explore how social host liability applies to Pennsylvania alcohol-related accidents.

What is Social Host Liability?

Social host liability is a legal concept that holds individuals responsible for providing alcohol to minors or intoxicated individuals who then cause harm to themselves or others. In other words, if a social host provides alcohol to someone who is visibly drunk or under the age of 21, and that person goes on to cause an accident, the social host may be held liable for any resulting damages.

How Does Social Host Liability Apply to Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has a social host liability law that applies to individuals who provide alcohol to minors. Under this law, anyone who knowingly serves or provides alcohol to a person under the age of 21 may be held liable for any resulting damages, injuries, or death that occurs as a result of the minor's consumption of alcohol.

Additionally, Pennsylvania courts have established a common law duty of care for social hosts who serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals. This duty of care means that social hosts have a responsibility to ensure that their guests do not consume alcohol to the point of intoxication and then cause harm to themselves or others. If a social host knowingly serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person and that person goes on to cause an accident, the social host may be held liable for any resulting damages.

What are the Requirements for Social Host Liability in Pennsylvania?

To hold a social host liable for damages caused by an intoxicated guest, the following elements must be established:

  1. The social host served or provided alcohol to the guest.

  2. The guest consumed the alcohol provided by the social host.

  3. The guest's consumption of alcohol caused their intoxication.

  4. The guest's intoxication was a significant factor in causing the accident or harm.

  5. The social host knew or should have known that the guest was intoxicated and likely to cause harm.

If these elements are established, the injured party may be able to hold the social host liable for any resulting damages.

What Damages Can be Recovered?

If a social host is found liable for damages caused by their intoxicated guest, the injured party may be entitled to recover a range of damages, including:

  1. Medical expenses

  2. Property damage

  3. Lost wages

  4. Pain and suffering

  5. Wrongful death damages (if applicable)

It is important to note that the damages recoverable in a social host liability case may vary depending on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.

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Drunk driving accidents are a serious problem in Pennsylvania and across the United States. While much of the focus is on the driver who caused the accident, it is important to remember that social hosts who provide alcohol to minors or intoxicated individuals may also be held liable for resulting damages. Pennsylvania has laws and legal precedents in place to hold social hosts accountable for their actions. If you have been injured in an alcohol-related accident, contact our office today to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and help you recover the compensation you deserve.