The dangers of drunk driving cannot be overstated. Approximately 31% of all accidents in the United States involve an intoxicated driver, and drunk driving caused over 13,000 deaths in 2021. In addition, these preventable crashes lead to hundreds of thousands of injuries each year.

California Drunk Driving Facts and Figures

In 2021, intoxicated driving deaths totaled 1,370 in California. California law states that it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This percentage only applies to people at or above the legal drinking age of 21. Individuals under 21 years old can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. A few other groups of people also have different standards:

  • People on DUI probation can be charged with DUI for a BAC of 0.01% or higher
  • Commercial driver’s license holders can be charged if their BAC is 0.04% or higher
  • Taxi and rideshare drivers must have a BAC of lower than 0.04%

Drivers can also be charged with DUI regardless of their BAC if they are seemingly impaired due to dangerous driving. Alcohol affects everyone differently, so the safest thing to do is not drive after drinking.

DUI-related accidents cause devastating injuries and fatalities far too often, and injured parties deserve to see the responsible party held accountable. While the intoxicated driver should be found liable for the damage they cause, California’s dram shop laws suggest that there may be others who can be held responsible for a drunk driving accident, too.

What are California Dram Shop Laws?

Dram shop laws in California are sometimes called social host laws, and they allow certain establishments and individuals, in addition to the drunk driver, to be held responsible for injuries caused by driving under the influence. DUI accident victims may be allowed to pursue compensation from a person or business that provides alcohol to someone who causes an accident, including the following:

  • Bar owners
  • Bartenders
  • Restaurant managers
  • Waiters
  • Catering or event staff
  • Party host
  • Alcohol vendor

California Civil Code Section 1714 states that providing alcohol to someone does not cause injuries resulting from that person’s intoxication, but instead that only the consumption of alcohol can be a proximate cause of such injuries. This law is intended to prevent restaurants, other businesses, and individuals from being sued for damage caused by drunk individuals. However, exceptions do exist.

Can a Bartender Serve Someone to the Point of Intoxication?

In some states, dram shop laws allow injured parties to sue bartenders for accidents their patrons cause when driving drunk. Such laws often require bartenders to stop serving obviously intoxicated people. However, dram shop laws are limited in California, and the state’s Civil Code Section 1714 includes more specific scenarios.

California dram shop laws only allow third parties to be held liable for DUI-related injuries when an intoxicated minor is involved. So, victims of drunk drivers can only sue the person who supplied the alcohol in the following circumstances:

  • Parents of other adults who give alcohol to a minor
  • Bars and other businesses that sell alcohol to a minor

In this context, a minor refers to anyone under the legal drinking age of 21 years old.

Parents and Alcohol for Minors

When an adult knowingly supplies alcohol to a minor, that adult may be responsible for any injuries resulting from the intoxication. This includes injuries the minor sustains and any injuries they inflict on others.

Businesses and Alcohol for Minors

Employees of any establishment licensed to serve, sell, or otherwise provide alcohol can be held responsible for giving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated minor.

Receiving Damages for a Drunk Driving Accident

Drunk drivers should always be held accountable for the injuries and trauma they cause in DUI accidents, and California’s Civil Code Section 1714 also provides additional options for seeking justice in limited circumstances. The complexities and nuances of California laws make it difficult to navigate a personal injury case on your own, but being informed can help you make a decision on whether or not you want to pursue legal action for your DUI accident injuries.

Proving fault in a DUI accident is often a little more straightforward than many other types of accidents, as the fact that one of the drivers was intoxicated is severely incriminating. However, you will still want to ensure you are adequately prepared for your case. This includes gathering evidence such as:

  • Medical records
  • Photos and videos
  • Police reports
  • Medical bills
  • Witness statements
  • Accident reconstruction

If you are successful in your claim involving dram shop laws, you may be able to receive compensation for your past related medical care, future medical needs like surgery or physical therapy, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Keep in mind that if you were injured by a drunk driver who is 21 years old or older, the exceptions in Civil Code Section 1714 would not apply to your situation. However, the drunk driver can likely still be held liable.

Getting on the road to physical, psychological, and financial recovery means receiving the car accident compensation you need to start healing. If you think that you are entitled to seek damages according to California’s Civil Code Section 1714 or any other accident-related state laws, contact The Accident Network Law Group. We offer free consultations to discuss your case and help you determine the best way forward. Call our Costa Mesa office at (714) 844-1010 or our Riverside office at (951) 554-1010 to schedule your free consultation today.