Dram Shop Liability (Social Hosting Liability)

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) includes several specific laws that primarily deal with providing minors with alcohol. Known as the dram shop laws and social hosting laws, they establish a legal precedent for filing claims against a person or establishment that serve minors alcohol. They include bars, restaurants, and other business establishments as well as individuals and their private property. 

An individual or business that furnishes a minor with alcohol can face serious legal consequences. This is most significant in regard to accidents or injuries resulting from minor intoxication. When an accident occurs that causes injury or damage due to a minor being intoxicated, whoever served the minor alcohol could be held liable for the incident.

Lawyer for Dram Shop Liability in Bellingham, WA

Drunk driving accidents are an unfortunate reality on our roads, with hundreds of people injured and killed each year due to intoxicated drivers. In the event of an accident that causes severe damage, injury, or death, making sure that you and your family receive fair compensation is tremendously important. In many drunk driving cases, it is not only the driver that is liable for the accident. Businesses and people who gave alcohol to the driver past a certain level of intoxication could also be responsible.

It is our mission at PNW Trial Lawyers to provide our clients with quality legal service and guidance inside and outside the court. We understand that the circumstances that bring you to us have seriously impacted your life and the lives of your loved ones. From the beginning until the very end, our team of legal professionals will work with you to fight for your rights, and to secure what you are entitled to.

Contact us at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. Our firm serves clients in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Everett, Anacortes, and many other cities in the surrounding area.

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Overview of Dram Shop Liability Laws

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Dram Shop Liability

In instances where an intoxicated person (minor or legal adult) causes an accident after leaving an establishment or private property drunk, the person or business responsible for providing them alcohol could be liable. This law was designed in order to cut back on underage alcohol consumption. 

Each year, many intoxicated drivers are underage. Poor decision-making skills coupled with inexperience with alcohol can cause many underage drivers to get behind the wheel when they are not capable of driving safely. Laws have been passed to reduce this occurrence. Studies have shown that across the board, Dram Shop Laws have significantly reduced the frequency of underage drinking, as well as lowered the frequency of serious accidents resulting in injuries or death.

The effectiveness of these laws makes it extremely important that they are enforced strictly. In the event that you have been harmed by an intoxicated underage driver, it is highly recommended you consult a personal injury lawyer to assist you in pursuing litigation against both the driver and the supplier of the alcohol.


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Social Hosting Liability

Dram shop laws cover licensed businesses and establishments that serve alcohol to the public. Social hosting laws, on the other hand, cover private entities. It is no secret that teenagers often get access to alcohol in private settings. Some parents think that it is simply more responsible to allow them to drink at home rather than elsewhere, so they permit it to happen under their watch. In most cases, bad things do not happen. However, sometimes, people make poor decisions that can have a long-lasting impact on many lives.

If, hypothetically, an underage drinker leaves a residence in their vehicle and gets into a crash after being supplied alcohol, the person(s) that furnished the alcohol could be criminally and civilly liable. Similar to dram shop laws, social hosting exists to reduce the number of underage intoxication occurrences. If individuals know that they will be held liable for any accidents or issues that occur due to their giving a minor alcohol, they will be less likely to agree to do so. The second reason simply aims to cut down on the frequency of serious accidents caused by intoxicated minors.

If you sustain serious injuries due to an accident caused by an intoxicated minor, you can pursue compensation from the person that supplied the minor with alcohol, even if they do not operate a business or establishment of any kind.


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What About Legal Adults?

While these laws were originally constructed with minors in mind, rulings in Washington courts have settled the question of whether people or institutions can be held liable for intoxicated adults causing accidents. In accordance with the already established law RCW 66.44.200, Washington courts decided in 2004 during Barrett V. Lucky Seven Saloon that dram shop laws can be applied to cases when an intoxicated adult causes an accident as well.

Before their ruling, it was already illegal for businesses to serve alcohol to an individual considered to be extremely intoxicated, but there was no clear legal precedent for victims of an accident to pursue litigation against the establishment that continued to give the driver alcohol.


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Additional Resources

Mothers Against Drunk Driving | Washington Branch – This site is for the Washington branch of the national organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). There are many valuable pieces of information on this site, as well as links to other useful sources.

RCW Chapter 64.44 State Alcohol Laws – This is a link to the Revised Code of Washington’s laws on the sale of liquor. Most of the laws pertaining to the sale or furnishing of liquor in the State of Washington can be found here. It can be quite helpful to view the exact wording of the law when trying to understand what everyone’s rights are.

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Attorney for Dram Shop Liability in Whatcom County, WA

Normally we’d think that a car accident can only be caused by one of the parties involved in the collision. The law says differently, however. If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, you are entitled to bring litigation against whoever provided the intoxicated driver (minor or adult) with alcohol.

At PNW Trial Lawyers, we have years of first-hand experience building concrete cases representing injured people. We understand the immense amount of work required to investigate, analyze, and build a case for a judge and jury. From start to finish, our team of devoted professionals will work with you to provide your case with the type of service it requires.

Contact us today at (360) 483-5201 to schedule a free consultation and strategy session. Our firm serves clients in Whatcom County, Skagit County, and Snohomish County.