Who’s Responsible for Injuries Caused by Underage Drinking

Who’s Responsible for Injuries Caused by Underage Drinking

by / Monday, 07 December 2020 / Published in Motor Vehicle Accidents, Personal Injury
Teens in car holding bottles of beer.

For many people, when they look back at the time they spent in high school, they might have fond memories of sneaking in some alcohol. Often, when teenagers get a hold of alcohol, they get it from a parent or another adult who simply doesn’t think underaged drinking is a big deal, because they want to be the “cool” adult, or because they have an idea in their head that it’s better for kids to experiment with alcohol under their supervision. Or maybe they grew up before the drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 and don’t understand how it was okay for them to drink as an 18-year-old, but it’s not okay for 18-year-olds to do it now. But there are reasons why the legal drinking age is 21 and many of them have to do with the cognitive development of teenagers.

Teenagers typically don’t have a reputation for having the best decision making skills, strong impulse control, or good judgement. This is because the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls these types of skills, is still developing during the teen years and adding alcohol to the mix can potentially end in tragedy and there is historical precedent to prove this.

The Problem With Teen Drinking

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many states lowered their drinking age to 18. Unfortunately, around this time, there was also a sharp increase in car accidents involving drunk driving nationwide and this proved to be particularly problematic among younger drivers. At one point, over two-thirds of car accidents involving people age 16-20 involved alcohol. According to the CDC, states that raised their legal drinking age to 21 in response to the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, saw a median 16% decrease in motor vehicle crashes.

Michigan Law & Underage Drinking Accidents

Before you decide to hand a teenager a drink, whether it’s your own child or a group of your kid’s friends, it’s important to remember that you could be legally liable for damages they end up causing while under the influence. For example, if you serve alcohol to a teenager and they end up getting behind the wheel of a car and cause a serious car accident, you could be liable for the injuries caused.

Not only can you be on the hook for civil damages, serving alcohol to minors can also involve criminal charges. Michigan has a social host liability law, which makes it a misdemeanor offense to sell or furnish alcohol to minors and a felony offense if the following criteria are met:

  • A person has suffered an injury

  • That injury was caused by someone under the age of 21 who was under the influence of alcohol

  • A host knowingly served/sold alcohol to an underaged person or neglected to find out if the person was under 21

  • The act of serving alcohol to the underaged person was a direct and substantial cause of the injury

Help With Injuries Caused by Teen Drinking

If you’ve been injured in an accident that involved a teen who had been served alcohol, it’s important to make sure you have the help of an experienced lawyer who can answer your questions and help you understand your legal options. The lawyers at Goodwin & Scieszka are experienced in handling many types of Michigan personal injury lawsuits, including lawsuits involving drugs and alcohol. Contact us today to find out how we can work with you.

Image: iStock / mandygodbehear

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