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Who is Liable in Drunk Driving Accidents?

Many of us will be participating in celebrations during this upcoming holiday season. Wherever you choose to celebrate, be sure to drink responsibly.

It is a joyous time of year to spend precious time with friends and family. While we want to enjoy ourselves, it is important to drive responsibly at all times. Over 34,000 individuals were arrested for drunk driving in 2012 alone. Do not make yourself part of that 2013 statistic.


Statistics show that close to 40% of all vehicle-related fatalities involve alcohol. The dangers of driving while intoxicated have been well known for decades, and every state has strict laws regarding the crime. An intoxicated driver is reckless and can cause serious injury to other motorists. If you have lost a close family member to a drunk driver, or been hurt by one yourself, contact an attorney immediately. Victims of drunk driving accidents deserve to be compensated for their injuries.

The Responsibilities of a Host

During this time, when many people will be hosting parties in their home, and serving alcohol, the question of liability becomes an issue. Missouri law does not allow for a host to be held accountable if a guest consumes alcohol on their property and then decides to drive themselves home. However, the responsible action of a host would be to ensure that each guest has a designated driver and make alternate transportation arrangements for those who do not.

In situations where there are minors in the home, it is against the law to knowingly serve them alcohol, but Missouri judges have consistently ruled that an accident resulting from this is not the fault of the homeowner. They are typically responsible only for the furnishing of the alcohol. The minor in question is often fully responsible for its consumption, and it is the consumption that caused the accident, not just being handed a drink. Underage drinking is cited as being the cause of close to 30% of all traffic accident related fatalities each year. If you host a holiday party this year with minors in attendance please do not allow them to drink.

Missouri Dram Shop Law

A good deal of celebrating will occur outside of homes this year in establishments that are licensed to serve alcohol. With this license, the owner of the bar may be responsible for certain actions of a patron after they leave his property. This is known as dram shop laws. In Missouri it is illegal for a server to continue providing alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. If they leave and cause harm to another, the bar can be found partially liable and responsible to pay damages.

Consider these two different drunk driving accidents, with two very different results:

Case number one is of a young lady broadsided by a drunk driver as he drove away from a private party. No dram shop claim since the homeowners did not hold a license to sell alcohol. Case settled for $546,000. Case number two is a $2.3 million settlement for a family that was hit by a drunk driver after he had left a local bar. Eyewitness testimony and circumstantial evidence as to the extent of his intoxication while he was still being served alcohol makes it a dram shop claim.

St. Louis Drunk Driving Lawyers

Wherever you choose to celebrate this holiday season, be sure to drink responsibly. Car accidents and fatalities that can be attributed to excessive alcohol consumption are especially tragic. Hopefully, you and your loved ones will be able to avoid such an encounter this holiday season.  However, if you are involved in a drunk driving accident, this type of negligence should not go without punishment. Contact The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. to learn what your legal options are.

Free Consultation with a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer

Don’t talk to an insurance claims adjuster before speaking with The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. We can help you avoid making statements that may affect the outcome of your case. The consultation is free; you don’t pay unless we get you money!

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Updated: May 14, 2024