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Drunk Driving Quickly Ruins The Party Under Social Host Laws

The holidays may be over but it seems that another reason to celebrate is never far away. For many Americans celebrating can mean consuming too much alcohol. Since the Christmas and New Year's holidays cause an increase in DUIs and alcohol-related car accidents, there is a good chance that you or someone you know has been affected by the consequences of drunk driving.

These consequences may reach father than you think. In fact, if you hosted a party that served alcohol you could be held responsible for the drunk driving of one of your guests. North Carolina is one of 37 states that have some form of social host liability laws. Many North Carolina residents don't know about these laws, but they can hold serious consequences.

If you host a party and serve alcohol you are responsible for the actions of your guests even after they leave the party. It doesn't matter whether the "party" is a dinner for two or a wedding with hundreds of guests. If one of your guests drinks too much and then drives, you can be held responsible for any injuries or property damage suffered by a third party.

In order for a social host to be deemed liable, North Carolina's law relies on three pieces of evidence. It must be proven that you served alcohol to drunk driver and that you knew he would be driving home later. These two are pretty easy to prove.

The third piece of evidence is a little trickier. Claimants and prosecutors must prove that you knew or should have known that the person was drunk when he left the party. If you knowingly let an intoxicated guest drive home from your party, you are responsible for the consequences of that guest's actions.

The best way to protect yourself as a host is to be a responsible friend to all guests. If you are the host of a party, you should stay sober enough to monitor the health of your guests. If the party has many guests and you can't watch them all, designate some sober drivers to make sure everyone gets home safely.

Drunk driving is a major issue which can quickly ruin a party. It can also land the host of a party in some serious trouble. If you want to be a good host this year, don't let intoxicated guests get behind the wheel.

Source: The Forum of North Carolina State University, "Social Host Liability," Carol A. Schwab, Spring 1997

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