If an adult serves alcohol to underage guests, the adult can be held liable for the harm caused by a drunk driving crash that happens as a result. This is known as social host liability, and in South Carolina, it only applies in situations where alcohol is being served to guests under the age of 21.
If your child was injured or killed by an underage drunk driver who was served by an adult at a party—or your child was served alcohol and crashed their own car—you can pursue compensation from the adult. These are complicated claims to pursue, so the sooner you contact our dram shop and liquor liability lawyer, the sooner we can start gathering evidence to hold all liable parties accountable.
What You Have to Prove for a Successful Social Host Claim
As with any negligence claim, you will have to prove a few key elements in order to have a valid case. You must be able to show that:
- An injury has been suffered.
- The injury was caused by a minor in an alcohol-related incident.
- The minor was provided with alcohol by an adult.
- Service of the alcohol to the minor caused the person's injury.
What does it mean to "provide" alcohol in a social situation? That will become an important fact to establish in any social host claim. Clearly, if an adult literally serves alcohol to minors, they are breaking the law. However, it is also considered negligence if an adult allows minors to consume alcohol in their home—whether by express permission or by willful ignorance.
In other words, if a bunch of teenagers are drinking in the basement while parents are home, and the parents do not check on them and are unaware that they are drinking, negligence can be established. This is considered a failure to exercise ordinary care as a homeowner. It is also possible to establish negligence if the parents are not even home. Adults are legally responsible for what goes on in their homes, whether they are there or not.
Adults who serve alcohol to minors are also criminally liable for their actions in South Carolina. While criminal prosecution is not intended to compensate victims of the crime, a conviction can substantially bolster a civil case against a social host.
What If My Child Caused the Crash?
Multiple tragic scenarios can result from adults providing teens with alcohol in a social setting. In all of them, the adult can be held liable. For example, a drunk teen could drive home from the party and crash into a car full of strangers. The social host would be liable for compensating the teen driver as well as their passengers and victims in the other car.
In this situation, however, the drunk teen driver is also liable for damages. So, if your child was driving drunk and caused a crash, they (and most likely, your auto insurance) would be liable, but so would the social host.
How Is the Social Host Law Different From Dram Shop Liability?
In South Carolina, bars and restaurants that sell alcohol to underage or intoxicated patrons can be held liable for damages caused by drunk driving crashes. This is known as dram shop liability. If a teen was served in a bar and subsequently caused a crash, the bar could be held liable for damages. These claims are similar to social host claims, but because bars and restaurants are required to care $1 million in liability insurance, they can be worth a lot more in potential compensation. The team at Derrick Law Firm can help with both social host and dram shop liability claims.
Have You Been Injured in a South Carolina DUI Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident, you should speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach, Florence or North Charleston office locations.