Can A Party Host Be Held Liable For Drunk Driving In OR?

Most people understand that drinking and driving is incredibly dangerous, and law enforcement officials in Oregon take this very seriously. Drivers in this state can face harsh penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol, including jail time, fines, and a suspended driver’s license. However, can a party host be held liable for a drunk driving incident if a party guest causes a crash? Oregon does have laws related to social host liability in these situations, and we want to look at how this law could apply.

Social Host Liability in Oregon

Oregon’s Revised Statutes section 471.565 establishes what are commonly referred to as “dram shop laws” that regulate the responsibility of alcohol vendors (bars, restaurants, etc.) to not provide alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. If they do so, they could be held liable for any injuries the intoxicated person causes.

The same statute applies to the responsibility of private hosts who serve alcohol at their events. The same guidelines apply in these situations. A person injured by an intoxicated individual who was served alcohol at a social party may seek damages from the host of the social event if they can prove that:

  • The intoxicated person was “visibly intoxicated” when they were served alcohol at the event, AND the injured person did not “substantially contribute” to the intoxication, OR
  • The intoxicated person was a minor and the social host failed to check the person’s identification, or failed to spot a fake ID when a reasonable person would have.

Drunk Driving Leads to Serious Accidents

Alcohol-impaired driving leads to a disproportionate amount of fatal accidents each year in Oregon when compared to other causes of fatal accidents. In many cases, alcohol-involved crashes happen when drivers are operating at high speeds. Impaired drivers often fail to slow down before an impact occurs. Those who do survive a crash with an impaired driver often suffer from severe injuries, including:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Broken and dislocated bones
  • Severe lacerations or puncture wounds
  • Internal organ damage or bleeding
  • Amputations or crush injuries

Damages Available in These Cases

If a person does seek to hold a social host liable for their role in an alcohol-related incident, then the victim could be entitled to significant compensation. This could include coverage for their:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages if a person cannot work
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Loss of personal enjoyment damages
  • General household out-of-pocket expenses
  • Property damage expenses

Each state is responsible for setting time limits, called the statute of limitations, in these cases. In Oregon, an injury victim must file a lawsuit against an alleged negligent social host within two years from the date the accident occurred. Failing to file a lawsuit within this two-year window could result in the victim being unable to recover the compensation they deserve.

These cases can be difficult to prove. In most drunk driving cases, the liability falls onto the impaired driver. A victim, or their attorney, will need to provide substantial evidence that the social host acted irresponsibly in serving a visibly intoxicated person (or a minor).

Contact our Portland drunk driving accident attorneys today.