Drunk driving is a serious offense in all states in this country, and can have disastrous consequences, especially when young people are involved. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 35 percent of all car accident deaths of young people involve alcohol. While it is illegal in all 50 states for those under the age of 21 to purchase and possess alcohol, alcohol often makes it into the hands of minors.
Recently, three underage men from the Pittsburgh area were killed in a drunk driving accident. All three had been at a party, when they left to go to a bar to get beer. On their way back to the party, their truck crashed into a pond, and all three occupants of the truck were killed. Upon investigation, the coroner found that the men had blood alcohol limits ranging from .063 to.106. The state has filed a criminal complaint against the bar for selling/furnishing alcohol to minors, among other charges.
However, some states have social host liability laws that imparts a duty of care on adult party hosts not to furnish or serve alcohol to minors. In addition, dram shop laws allow victims of drunk driving accidents to hold the responsible bar that served the alcohol to the driver. In a tragic situation such as the one described above, these types of laws may come into play during a wrongful death lawsuit.
Where the actions of a third party, such as a social host or bar employee cause the death of another, the representative of the victim’s estate may file a wrongful death suit against the responsible party for damages. A wrongful death suit, which is a civil matter, may be filed even where a criminal action has been brought by the state against the same party. While a wrongful death action cannot bring back a loved one who has been killed, the damage award may help alleviate some of the financial strain associated with a death.
Source: www.post-gazette.com, “2 face charges after death of 3 Pittsburgh-area minors in accident,” Kelton Brooks, July 15, 2013