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Alcohol And Driving – Not A Good Holiday Mix

“You can’t go on
Thinking nothing’s wrong
But now
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight”

(“Drive” by the Cars)

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, family get-togethers, and work gatherings. Christmas and Hanukah are winding up and New Year’s Eve is right around the corner. Holiday parties continue in fully swing. As you head out to your holiday party in the North Shore over the next couple of weeks, not only is it important to focus on sartorial splendor (clothes); culinary choices (food) and GIFTS, don’t forget to watch out for other drivers on the roads. Wintery weather isn’t the only inducer of havoc – so is drinking and driving.

If you are involved in a car accident with a drunk driver while driving in Massachusetts on Rt. 128, 95, Rt. 1, or local streets, you may be able to recover for your injuries and damages- including property damage to your vehicle- from the driver; and if he or she was coming from a holiday party and had too much to drink, you may be able to recover against the host of the holiday party (homeowners or a business).

For example, the McGuiggans hosted a party for their son, Daniel and provided alcoholic beverages to the guests, the majority of whom were over the age of 21. McGuiggan v. New England Telephone and Telegraph Company, 398 Mass. 152 (1986). James, a friend of Daniel’s, attended the party. He was served at least one alcoholic drink, but seemed perfectly normal when he left the party with some friends, including Daniel. James, Daniel and their friends got into a car and were driving around when Daniel stuck his head out of the car’s window. He hit a cement post with his head and later died at the hospital.

Three hours after the accident, James was administered a breathalyzer test, which recorded a reading of .140. The legal blood alcohol content limit in Massachusetts is .08. M.G.L. ch. 90 § 24.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThe Court in McGuiggan had to decide whether or not the McGuiggans were responsible for James’ behavior and Daniel’s death. The Court concluded that the McGuiggans were not responsible for the accident as hosts of the party because James was not obviously intoxicated when he left their house; they did not know that he was drunk when he left the party and he had not exhibited obvious signs of intoxication. However, the Court did say that a host could be responsible for a guest’s behavior after the guest leaves the party if the host knew or should have known the guest was drunk.

As we enjoy the holidays, parties at work, after hours and with family and friends, you should be aware that if you host a party and serve alcohol to someone who gets behind the wheel, you could be responsible for damages if an accident happens.

If you are involved in a car accident with a drunk driver this holiday season, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you determine who may be responsible and how to recover for your injuries; and do so before you speak to any insurance representative.

Happy Holidays, and safe travels!

But now, who’s gonna drive you home tonight.”