Drunk Driving Accident Liability on New Year’s Eve 2016

Drunk Driving Accident Liability on New Year’s Eve 2016

Winter weather may be breaking records here in Indiana and Illinois, but it’s not stopping us.  We’re getting up and going to work or school (or shopping) even if it means dealing with cold and snow and ice.

This week, many are planning for the weekend’s big celebration and biggest parties. New Year’s Eve is this Saturday.

 There will be private parties as well as sponsored events in hotels and bars.  Celebrations planned for months are going forward regardless of the winter conditions. 

Maybe you or someone you know is planning on attending events like:

We hope you and yours have a wonderful time on New Year’s Eve, and that it marks the beginning of a great 2017! 

Still, it’s important to recognize the dangers facing everyone out and about this holiday weekend. The risk of a serious car crash is real.  Especially since we know that there will be drivers on the roads who are driving under the influence.

Bars and Clubs:  Drunk Drivers and Businesses

State laws protect us all against drivers who drive drunk.  These include statutes applying to an establishment selling alcoholic beverages.  Both Indiana and Illinois have  “dram shop laws.”  These laws try to stop drunk driver accidents by making businesses monitor their customers.

The dram shop laws work by expanding liability for any drunk driving accidents to the establishment providing alcoholic beverages to the drunk driver.

How?  First, if the business is selling alcohol, then it needs to make sure its patron is old enough to drink. Customers must meet the legal age limit for buying alcohol.

Second, the business must refuse service.  If someone is obviously drunk, the business should not sell him an alcoholic beverage.


If the business fails to obey these laws, and their customer leaves drunk and causes a car crash or fatal accident, then the business can be sued and held responsible alongside that drunk driver for the accident and its consequences.

Parties:  Drunk Drivers and Social Hosts

This weekend, there will be lots of celebrations in private homes, too.  Maybe you have a friend or relative who has a tradition of opening their home to friends or family to bring in the New Year.  Some of these may be small parties, others may be huge get-togethers.

No matter the size of that private New Year’s Eve party, state law in both Indiana and Illinois will consider them to be “social host” gatherings.

A social host has a legal responsibility regarding his guests.  If a guest leaves the party and has a drunk driving accident, then the social host may share legal liability for that crash.

However, the extent of that social host liability is not the same for Indiana and Illinois.

Private New Year’s Eve Party in Illinois

In the State of Illinois, there is a limited liability placed upon the social host for serving alcoholic beverages to a minor driver who is then in a drunk driving crash.  There is NO liability for any drunk driving crash involving an adult.

Read Illinois’ Social Host Law here.

Private New Year’s Eve Party in Indiana

Hoosiers are held to a different standard.  In the State of Indiana, social hosts can be held liable for the drunk driving accident of a guest if the following exist:

  1. the person furnishing the alcoholic beverage had actual knowledge that the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was visibly intoxicated at the time the alcoholic beverage was furnished; and
  2. the intoxication of the person to whom the alcoholic beverage was furnished was a proximate cause of the death, injury, or damage alleged in the complaint.

Read Indiana’s Social Host Law here.

Police Presence and Drunk Driving Prosecutions

Of course, law enforcement will be out and on the alert for drunk drivers over the holiday.  The Indiana State Police, for instance, have issued a warning early on that they will be targeting drivers who they suspect are driving under the influence.

Criminal complaints filed after an accident serve to prosecute and punish the drunk driver. They do not help the accident victim get justice and support for things like medical expenses, lost wages, therapy, rehab, and more.

These are provided by state negligence laws and personal injury claims.  These claims may be pursued not only against the drunk driver but also against the business or social host who contributed to the driver’s inebriation. 

It will depend upon the particular circumstances of that case as well as the state jurisdiction applying to the driver’s drinking before the accident.

Let’s hope that we all have a safe and happy time this weekend.  Be aware of your surroundings and the dangers that exist for you and your loved ones as you celebrate the New Year this weekend.  Let’s be careful out there!





Contact Us

To learn more about the Kenneth J. Allen Law Group law firm, its jury verdicts and case results please fill out this Contact Form and information will be sent to you. Or call any of our offices in Valparaiso, Merrillville or Chicago.

Case Evaluation

Please call us, or fill in the Case Evaluation Form below, to learn more and arrange for a confidential FREE consultation.

Who was at fault?

Are you receiving medical treatment? YesNo

Have you had or do you need surgery? YesNo


Allen Law Building

1109 Glendale Boulevard
Valparaiso, Indiana - 46383

Justice Center

3700 E. Lincoln Hwy. (US 30)
Merrillville, Indiana - 46410

Capital Center

201 N. Illinois Street South Tower
Indianapolis, Indiana - 46204

Crain Communication Building

150 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, Illinois - 60601

Lincolnshire Business Center

1000 Essington Road 
Joliet, Illinois - 60431

Executive Office Building

15255 S 94th Ave #500
Orland Park, Illinois - 60462