When people ask if they are responsible for the actions of their party guests, what they usually mean is– are they accountable for the car accidents that their guests cause due to intoxication. The answer varies by jurisdiction; however, you should steer clear of providing alcohol to underage guests—the hosts are often held accountable.

Social host liability laws

When someone throws a party and serves alcohol, some jurisdictions hold the host responsible for the actions of intoxicated guests under what is known as “social host liability.” Each state has adopted its own social host liability laws. They may differ in regard to the types of injuries or damages they apply to– and the age of the guests who imbibed.

New York and New Jersey have adopted very different laws, so if you live in one of these states, you need to look specifically at the laws that apply to you. Experienced car accident attorneys can provide a more in-depth analysis of your situation.

New York social host liability

In New York, party hosts are not liable for their adult guests’ actions, even those who became intoxicated. However, under New York General Obligations Law section 11-100, a person is liable for the damages that someone under the age of 21 causes– if the host unlawfully provided alcohol to the minor or assisted the minor in procuring it.

By contrast, those who sell alcohol may also be liable. To hold the establishment responsible, the injured party needs to show that the seller unlawfully sold or obtained alcohol for the intoxicated party; this party was a minor or was already visibly inebriated at the time, and there was a reasonable connection between their intoxication and the plaintiff’s injury.

In addition, some New York jurisdictions have adopted local laws that impose social host liability. For example, in Westchester County, it is a misdemeanor for parents to host a party where underage guests drink, even if they did not provide the alcohol. Violation can result in fines from $250-$1,000 and up to one year in prison.

New Jersey social host liability

The New Jersey social host liability law is broader than New York law. A third party injured in a motor vehicle accident may sue a social host who provided alcohol to a visibly intoxicated guest. However, the liability only applies in the case of auto accidents. A host is not liable for other actions such as an assault and battery that a intoxicated guest commits in a brawl. However, hosts can also be liable for the actions of intoxicated minors. The host’s liability attaches under common law when they serve alcohol to them.

The financial liability of a social host

If your party guest causes an injury and you served alcohol in violation of state or local law, you may be liable for both economic and non-economic damages. Liability may attach even in a no-fault state like New York because accidents caused by impairment of alcohol or drugs fall outside the coverage of personal injury protection policies. This means an injured person may file a lawsuit directly against an at-fault party.

Economic damages can include:

  • Past and present medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • The cost of medications and medical supplies
  • Lost wages
  • Payment for personal services that the injured party cannot perform due to the injury

Non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional damages
  • Compensation for disfigurement
  • Payment for disability
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Loss of consortium

The damages can be substantial, and they may or may not be covered by insurance. It is essential to speak with a lawyer to understand what damages may be available in a given case.

Contact us for a free consultation

The way the laws are written in your state will significantly impact your rights and responsibilities. Whether you are a host or a victim, talk to a lawyer in your area to get the most accurate information.

If you have been involved in an accident and social host liability may be a factor, call us at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C. to speak with a car accident lawyer for Rockland and Bergen counties. We are committed to providing expert service to individuals and families who have been harmed by others’ wrongdoing. Call today to schedule a free consultation.