Washington State has a social host liability law that holds adults legally liable if they furnish alcohol for those who are underage. This means those who suffer injuries as a result of this underage drinking could have a case against the social host.
If you suffered injuries because of underage drinking, a Washington State personal injury lawyer familiar with these cases can help you understand your rights. Many offer free consultations where you can learn about your legal options and how the law firm can help you.
What Is Social Host Liability in Washington State?
When a bar or restaurant serves alcohol to a patron, they have a certain duty of care to keep that person and others they encounter safe. For example, if they drink too much and drive, the bar could be responsible for over-serving them. This duty is created with state and local alcohol permitting and the related laws.
When someone is hosting a party or another event at their home, there are no similar laws. This is where the social host liability laws come in. They create a duty of care for social hosts. These are generally homeowners, property owners, or party hosts on property they rent. These laws apply only to underage party-goers.
According to RCW 66.44.270, adults cannot sell or otherwise provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 or permit them to consume an alcoholic beverage on their property. The possible penalties for violating this criminal law include one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. It also creates a civil liability for that property owner if the underage drinker causes injuries to someone else because of their alcohol use.
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Why Are Social Host Liability Laws Necessary in Washington State?
According to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, most underage drinkers receive their alcohol from a social source and also consume it at home or in another’s home. This means it is parents, friends, and older siblings who are providing this alcohol and know about them consuming it.
Many dangerous situations are more likely when alcohol is involved, especially among teens and young adults. This includes the possibility of drunk driving crashes, fights, alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, falls, and other risky behavior.
Young people do not always make good choices, especially after they have been drinking with friends. Accidents and injuries can and do happen. The social host liability laws allow victims to hold the adults who provided the alcohol and permitted the drinking legally responsible.
What Does a Washington State Social Host Liability Injury Case Look Like?
When someone suffers injuries caused by an intoxicated minor, they file insurance claims or lawsuits against the party or parties who provided the alcohol. This could be a business that sold to underage drinkers or a social host.
There are many ways that someone drinking underage could cause injuries. Most commonly, this occurs in drunk driving traffic accidents. However, there could be other types of personal injury cases based on underage drinking and social host liability.
When you choose to work with an attorney to handle your case, you can focus on healing. Your lawyer will take care of building the case, identifying your recoverable damages, and negotiating with the insurance companies.
What Damages Are Recoverable in a Washington State Injury Case?
When a social host provides alcohol to a minor and that minor causes harm, a personal injury lawyer will build a compelling case to show what happened and why the victim deserves compensation. For example, imagine a car accident caused by a drunk driver who is 18 years old. The victim can pursue a case against both the at-fault driver and the social host who provided that driver with alcohol.
The potential value of the case would include the expenses and losses the victim incurred because of the crash. Examples include:
- Current and future medical treatment and related expenses
- Current and future lost income
- Reduced earning capacity for lasting injuries
- Property damages
- Related expenses with receipts
- Pain and suffering damages
If the victim died from their injuries, their survivors may pursue wrongful death damages. This could include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Income losses
- Loss of services
- Loss of inheritance
- Other damages
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help With My Washington State Social Host Liability Injury Case?
Under RCW 4.16.080, victims hurt in an injury case usually have up to three years to begin a lawsuit. However, there are many steps to take before filing this paperwork. Many cases do not require a lawsuit at all. For this reason, and because it could help you build a stronger case, we recommend talking to a lawyer as soon as your injuries allow.
These cases can be difficult to navigate and win. It is not always clear who is legally responsible for underage drinking, and sometimes it is difficult to show that intoxication played a role in the incident and injuries.
To get the best outcome in your case, you need a law firm with experience, knowledge, resources, and reputation on your side. You want to talk to a firm that answers your questions and shows you they understand how the Washington State social host liability laws work. Many provide free consultations. Most also have a no-fee unless they win policy, meaning you do not need to pay any upfront fees.
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Discuss Your Case With Our Washington State Social Host Liability Team for Free
At Jackman Law Firm, we understand how the Washington State social host liability law works. We know how to hold negligent social hosts legally responsible for the injuries underage drinkers cause when provided with and allowed to consume alcohol. We know how to build these cases and recover compensation for our clients.
Contact us today to get started with a free initial consultation with our team.