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Responsible Party Hosts Reduce Drunk Driving Risks in Wisconsin

Spring break and the graduation season are upon us, which means more road risks involving young drivers, including an increased risk of drugged or drunk driving.

It's an issue that made news this week after the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard a case to determine whether law enforcement can draw blood without a warrant from suspected drunk drivers in Wisconsin, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, safety advocates continue to push lawmakers to do more when it comes to reducing drunk driving risks in Wisconsin. One proposed measure would make a first-offense DUI a crime. Wisconsin is the only state where it remains a civil violation.

But this spring it will be responsible party hosts that have the greatest impact on road safety, particularly where young drivers are involved. Our injury lawyers in Hayward and Winter encourage you to plan carefully and act responsibly, to avoid turning your celebration into a tragedy.

Legal Liability for Drunk Driving Injuries

Under Wisconsin law (W.S. 895.035), parents are held liable for damages or injuries caused by children. W.S. 343.15 imposes joint and several liability on parents who sign a child's driver's license application in cases where a child is negligent or for a child's willful misconduct in operating a motor vehicle. Joint and several liability means a parent can be held responsible for the entire amount of damages, regardless of proportioned fault.

In many cases, Wisconsin's Dram Shop Law (W.S. 124.035) does not hold social hosts are businesses responsible when alcohol service results in injury. However, an exemption exists when alcohol is provided to a minor and is a "substantial factor" in resulting injury.

These cases most often proceed against a homeowner's insurance policy. So, perhaps not surprisingly, the insurance industry is at the forefront of promoting responsible party hosting.

Safe Party Tips for Wisconsin Parents

Each year more than 5,000 alcohol-related traffic collisions occur in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Teens are at highest risk, particularly when alcohol is mixed with other risks factors, like driving at night, riding with multiple passengers in the vehicle, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt.

The Insurance Information Institute offers a number of safe party tips: 

  • Consider other venues: Using an off-site location, and/or hiring professional alcohol service, can both reduce a homeowner's liability.
  • Use designated drivers: And services like Uber and Lyft to ensure guests do not drink and drive.
  • Food and Drink: Offer plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverage options.
  • Stop service: Don't serve alcohol at the end of a gathering. 

These are often devastating collisions involving multiple teenagers and limited insurance coverage. An experienced Hayward injury law firm must carefully review each case to identify all of the responsible parties in the wake of a drunk-driving collision so that adequate resources are available to pay the full extent of a victim's damages.

Lein Law Offices offers free and confidential appointments. Call 715-403-5045.

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