Dram Shop and Social Host Laws in VA, MD, and D.C.

Drunk driving accidents can result in devastating injuries, and lawsuits that follow can become complicated. If you were injured by a drunk driver, it’s important to understand your options for placing liability—including dram shop and social host liability laws, how they help hold responsible parties liable, and where to turn if you need help.  Dram shop laws

What Are Dram Shop and Social Host Liability Laws?

The term “dram” originated in 18th century England as a way to measure and serve alcohol. The word means a small drink of liquor or a small amount of anything. In America, 38 states have a “dram shop law” that makes any business that sells alcoholic drinks or a host who serves liquor to someone who’s intoxicated liable to anyone who is injured by that intoxicated person.

In contemporary DUI cases, a "dram shop law" holds both the drunk driver and the bartender or server who over-provided the alcohol liable for injuries. A social host law is similar. It prohibits the serving of alcohol to minors or already-intoxicated people in residential or other private settings.

How Dram Shop Laws Work in VA, MD, and D.C.

Although Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that dram shop laws increase publicity about overserving alcohol, not all states have this law. Here’s a closer look at how these laws work in Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia:

  • Maryland. No dram shop law exists in Maryland, but the state’s social host law forbids service of alcohol to minors in a private setting. However, the minor, or anyone hurt by the actions of the drunk minor, is not allowed to sue the social host for damages.
  • Washington, D.C.  The law here not only bans the sale of alcohol to under-aged individuals, it prohibits the sale or service of alcohol to a person who is already intoxicated, appears to be intoxicated, or has a reputation for frequent intoxication. However, no social host law exists in D.C.
  • Virginia. Since Virginia precedents say that an intoxicated person is responsible for his own actions, no dram shop law exists here. However, a limited social host liability law prohibits a private social host from serving alcohol to a minor—but, like in Maryland, anyone injured by the drunk minor cannot hold the social host liable for damages.

If You Need an Advocate

If you suspect that the drunk driver who hit you may not be the only liable party, you may need legal representation. The experienced attorneys at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi can help you investigate, build a strong case, and fight for fair compensation. To speak with a member of our team today, fill out the contact form on our website.