Social Host Laws in North Carolina

social host liability

Since 1992, North Carolina social host laws have governed cases involving the liabilities of social hosts serving liquor to guests who later cause a drunk driving accident.

A host may have one guest or 100; there is no minimum limit to the number of guests required in order for a host to be considered liable. North Carolina’s “dram shop” laws apply the same liability to establishments that serve alcohol, such as bars, restaurants, clubs, sporting events, special events, and similar venues.

How does one prove a host is liable?

Proving social host liability in North Carolina requires evidence that the host served alcohol to an individual they knew was already intoxicated (or under the age of 21) and who would be driving. How do you prove a host had knowledge a guest was already intoxicated? Acquiring witness statements from guests at the event helps establish evidence and our attorneys review other options when analyzing the circumstances of a case.

If you plan to host a party and are concerned about the actions of your guests, there are special insurance policies for events. In addition to Thanksgiving, holiday parties, and New Year’s celebrations where alcohol is likely served, these policies can be used for weddings, block parties, or any large social engagement where it is difficult to monitor guests. Hosts may be concerned the risks are too high for someone to leave drunk and then drive home. These insurance policies may help contribute to the compensation a drunk driving accident victim pursues, which our attorneys will investigate on their behalf.

Whose injuries are social hosts liable for in North Carolina?

Persons and property damaged by the drunk driver—and not the drunk driver’s injuries or property damage. Since drunk drivers themselves are negligent, and the Tar Heel State remains one of only four in the country with contributory negligence laws, a host is not responsible for the drunk driver’s injuries and property damage. Due to contributory negligence, if a passenger voluntarily rides in a vehicle operated by a driver they know is intoxicated, the passenger’s carelessness therefore contributes to injuries they may suffer in an accident and the passenger would not likely collect compensation from the drunk driver, nor the host.

If you or a loved one have been injured by an intoxicated driver, you should retain a law firm that is experienced in investigating the true source of the driver’s intoxication. If he or she became intoxicated at someone’s home or at a bar, that homeowner or bar owner may be liable for the damages you have suffered. Often times impaired drivers have limited insurance coverage. Determining where and how the driver became intoxicated could potentially provide another source of recovery to pay for the damages caused.