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Hosts who allow underage drinking may be held liable

People in San Diego know that the law can be pretty unforgiving when it comes to drunk driving, especially when those drivers cause property damage or even injure or kill another person. In addition to strict criminal penalties for DUI, drunk drivers who harm another person are open to tremendous civil liability. With the help of an experienced California personal injury attorney, car accident victims may be able to obtain significant monetary damages for their losses. But this civil and criminal liability doesn't always stop with just the driver; it may extend to the person who allowed him or her to drink in the first place.

The San Diego Sheriff's Department has emphasized that hosts, especially parents who host underage children, can be held liable for the actions of minors who drink on their property. These so-called "social host" ordinances make it a crime to allow underage people to drink on a person's property, even if the person does not provide the alcohol. This means that any person who knowingly allows minors to consume alcohol can be held liable for the consequences.

For example, assume that a father allows his teenage son and his friends to drink at his home. After a few hours, one of the guests gets behind the wheel and slams into the back of a car at a stoplight. This guest may be charged and found guilty of DUI and the social host who allowed the drinking to occur also may be arrested on criminal charges. If the victim of the drunk driving accident suffers injuries in the accident, he may be able to hold both the driver and the social host civilly liable, meaning that the host can potentially be required to pay the victim compensation and other damages. In some cases, the drunk driver himself may even be able to hold the host liable, especially if the host provided the alcohol or knew about the drinking.

Social hosts and drivers need to realize the potential consequences of their behavior and take responsibility for their actions. Those who are injured in car accidents, though, should always speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Source: San Diego Sheriff's Department, "Social Host Ordinances," accessed Nov. 22, 2014

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