Hosting a Holiday Party – What’s Your Liability?
By Michael Miller
Practically every single person reading this article will attend or host at least one holiday party. As my parents used to joke, “It’s all fun and games, until someone gets poked in the eye.” Well, that mantra is also true as we prepare for the festive season. Let’s make sure that some of the basic laws are understood before the holiday celebrations begin.
If you or your company is hosting a party and one of the guests has alcoholic beverages and then proceeds to be involved in an accident while driving under the influence, are you aware or what your responsibilities are as the host of the party? Georgia’s Dram Shop Act states that if an intoxicated person is served alcohol and, as a result, causes injury in a drunk-driving accident in Georgia, the victim can bring a claim against the server, whether a shop, eating or drinking establishment, or a home owner under Georgia dram shop liability laws. In short, adults could be held liable if found to have negligently or intentionally supplied alcohol to minors or served an intoxicated guest who will soon be driving.
Civil Suit vs. Criminal Proceedings
Injuries caused by drunk driving are very frequently the subject of civil suits. While drunk drivers can face serious criminal charges, with penalties including restitution and jail time, they can also face civil liability if they are sued by their victims. A civil suit for drunk driving is a separate – and distinct – process from any criminal proceedings a drunk driver may face. Criminal proceedings are designed to protect the public from future harm by acting as a deterrent to drunk driving, as well as to punish the drunk driver for acting in a reckless manner. A drunk driver can face criminal prosecution even if there is no accident or injury involved. A civil case based on drunk driving comes in the form of an injury lawsuit filed by the victim of a drunk driver, or in the case of a fatality, filed by the victim’s next of kin, to recover damages. If you are injured by a drunk driver, a civil suit could be your only recourse when attempting to recover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, damaged property or other economic damages. Civil suits, depending upon the law of your jurisdiction, also may offer the opportunity to recover non-economic damages, i.e. money for pain and suffering.
Should You Settle the Case?
The law surrounding civil and criminal liability related to hosts providing alcoholic beverages at social functions is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. Knowing that they will almost assuredly lose the case, insurance companies like to settle DUI/Personal Injury cases. The most important rule about settlements in personal injury cases is that, once your lawyer tells the defense attorney that you accepted the settlement offer, the case is settled. The decision is final and you cannot change your mind.
For more information on what do should you find yourself on the wrong side of the law this Holiday Season or if you find yourself in need for any other legal assistance, please contact Michael Miller or Dustin Hightower at 404-857-2960.
Miller & Hightower, P.C., Attorneys at Law
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