If you are hosting a social event and alcohol is being served, you may be held responsible for the actions of your guests. In other words, if someone who was drinking at your event is involved in a DUI crash, YOU may be held liable for some of the damages in that crash.

However, these laws vary from state to state, and while some states do not impose social host liability, in other states, you may have to compensate the victim in a personal injury claim. In Virginia, you cannot be held liable for your guests with the exception of serving alcohol to a minor (someone under the age of 21). Even then, you would only face penalties for serving a minor and not for injuries related to a DUI crash.  

Imposing Social Host Liability

In most U.S. states, social hosts may be held liable when: 

  • Alcohol has been served to a minor; and
  • The host was "reckless" in serving alcohol, or should have recognized their guest's level of intoxication and stopped serving them alcohol. 

Many states also hold the host liable if they are an employer of the guest, or if the event was held for business purposes. In such a case, the employer/host has a greater duty to the employee/guest, because the nature of the relationship suggests that the employee was obligated to attend the event.

In a case of the "reckless" service of alcohol, the recklessness is an issue to be decided in court by a jury and judge. If you are charged with such recklessness, and found guilty, you may be ordered to pay a victim a significant amount of money.

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Bob Battle
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100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts