Injured At A Neighbor's House Party By An Intoxicated Guest – What Are My Rights?

If an innocuous bystander sustains injuries due to a drunk guest, who has negligently been served one too many at a social gathering, the injured third-party can sue the liable host for the full amount of damages (besides the drunk guest). North Carolina law allows all parties, whose reckless behavior contributed to the injuries of the victim, to be held responsible for the full personal injury claim.

What can a Host do to Prevent Personal Injury Claims?

In anything that we do, some degree of risk is always involved. That does not mean one should not host friends at their home or arrange holiday parties. Also, it is perfectly alright to serve adult drinks responsibly. However, the law mandates that we use reasonable caution, meaning that we act in a prudent and careful manner as a reasonable person would conduct themselves in similar circumstances.

When organizing a social event, it is vital to ensure that the invitees are individuals who are responsible and upright citizens who will not drink themselves into oblivion and turn into miscreants.

Also, it is essential to make sure that you are appropriately insured. An adequate homeowner's insurance plan can help protect from liability to some extent. Furthermore, an "umbrella" policy can offer an additional layer of protection, often up to a minimum of $1,000,000.

Being sufficiently insured can protect your assets from any judgment if an accident occurs. In the absence of adequate insurance, a favorable ruling could allow the injured party to claim damages against your personal assets, such as personal property, stocks and bonds, and real estate.

What if you are the Injured Third-Party?

Innocent third-parties who are injured by an intoxicated person likely have a valid legal case against the inebriated individual. They may also have a valid legal claim against additional people, such as the party or social event host, through a legal theory known as "social host" liability.

In such fact-specific injury cases, there are various legal claims involved. Therefore, it is best to consult a seasoned lawyer who has in-depth knowledge of personal injury law.

Premises Liability

If someone sustains an injury within your premises while attending a social event or a party, you can be held liable. The law in North Carolina requires hosts to exercise reasonable care not to unnecessarily expose a legitimate visitor to a hazardous situation as well as warn them of any hidden risks.

Therefore, the host needs to exercise "reasonable care," including maintaining their property to ensure that it is not hazardous for visitors or taking care of a liquid spill promptly.  

In a premises liability claim, the injured party will need to show that the property owner was negligent in causing the condition or failing to rectify the situation after they were aware or should have been aware of its existence.

In case there is a hazardous situation that cannot be reasonably rectified, then the host must give proper warning of the risky condition. But if the condition is apparent to any reasonable individual, the host may not be responsible for warning visitors.

Damages

What happens if someone sustains injuries due to unsafe conditions on your premises or because of an intoxicated guest? If you, as the host, are liable, then the injured third-party will be eligible to claim damages, assuming that legal defense is not applicable. In North Carolina, these damages may include the following:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Reduced capacity to earn in the future
  • Lost income
  • The permanency related to any continuing injuries
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability

North Carolina Social Host Liability

In North Carolina, a series of court decisions have paved the path for possible civil liability for private hosts who provide their guests with adult beverages in a social setting, such as a party. Such liability extends to any individual who serves alcoholic drinks to guests.

According to North Carolina law, when an accident occurs due to an inebriated social guest, the injured party may be able to claim damages from the private host under the following circumstances:

  • the host arranged for or served the alcohol
  • the host was aware or should have been informed that the individual being served was intoxicated
  • the host understood that the individual would be operating a vehicle after being served alcohol

North Carolina law stipulates that social host liability is not restricted to cases where the host provided alcohol to minors below the age of 21 years. Rather, it is applicable to all social guests, irrespective of age.

Consult a Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney Today

It may be a challenging task to prove social host liability as a significant part of it depends on what the host witnessed and knew or should have been aware of. It would help if you had an experienced and committed attorney given the complex nature of cases involving host liability.

The seasoned attorneys at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn can offer invaluable assistance and in-depth knowledge of the North Carolina legal system to ensure that you can successfully pursue your social host liability case. Call 800-752-0042 today to schedule a consultation with a skilled personal injury lawyer.

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Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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