Underage Drinking Can Lead to Impaired Driving

Police in Waterville issued dozens of court summonses for underage drinking after responding to a call of a late-night party off-campus where people were smashing beer bottles in the street. Authorities got there around 1 a.m. and discovered two men on the street who conceded they had been drinking, even though they were under the age of 21. They pointed officers to the home where they had consumed the alcohol. 

When officers went to the home, they discovered the renters, six college students, had thrown a party that reportedly involved lots of underage drinking. Three of the renters, all 21, were charged with the Class D misdemeanor of allowing minors to drink alcohol, according to CentralMaine.com. Each is facing a fine of a mandatory $1,000 fine if any of the drinkers was under 18. Meanwhile, dozens of other youths were charged with the civil violation of underage drinking and face fines of between $200 and $400 for a first-time offense.

Although this incident did not lead to any underage drinking and driving, it’s not a stretch to think that one of those teens was planning to get behind the wheel of a car that night. Perhaps the police intervention thwarted that. But if they had gotten into a car and if they had been in an accident that caused someone else injuries, who would be liable?

Our Portland car accident attorneys know there are several individuals and entities we would examine in such a case.

The first potential source of liability, of course, would be the underage drunk driver. The hope would be that they are covered by some type of auto insurance policy, as covered by law.

Beyond that, we would want to know who owned the vehicle. If the vehicle was owned by a third party, but the teen driver had permission to use it, that owner could potentially be liable for the injuries caused. That’s because motor vehicles are considered dangerous instrumentalities. Rental car companies would be excluded under the federal Graves Amendment, but it’s possible parents, siblings, friends, and others could be liable, as could the insurance company that extended coverage to that vehicle.

Then, we would also look at the individuals who served alcohol to those minors. Maine Revised Statutes Title 28-A, Chapter 100, also known as the Maine Liquor Liability Act, allows that a vendor who is licensed to sell or serve alcohol in the state may be liable for negligently or recklessly providing alcohol to someone who is either already drunk or under the age of 21.

For those who are not licensees (alcohol vendors) but instead social hosts, there is a similar responsibility. Social hosts have a responsibility not to knowingly serve alcohol to someone who is either underage or visibly intoxicated.

Under dram shop and social liability laws in Maine, one can seek compensation for:

  • Medical bills.
  • Lost wages and income.
  • Pain and suffering.

Although there is no cap on damages for medical expenses stemming from these claims, other damages in social host or dram shop liability laws are capped at $350,000 per claim. That includes damages for pain and suffering. However, there is no damages cap that is applicable to a personal injury lawsuit filed by the injured person directly against the impaired driver.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Waterville police issue underage drinking summonses to dozen Colby students, Jan. 24, 2017, By Madeline St. Amour, CentralMaine.com

More Blog Entries:

Utility Negligence in Bangor Car Accidents, May 15, 2017, Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog

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