Florida is known for many things — white sand beaches, sunny days year-round, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy some downtime. With so many parties, happy hours, and beach get-togethers, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets a little bit too enthusiastic with their consumption of alcohol. What happens if one of them is a minor who later gets into a car accident? Who’s responsible for the damage?
Who can be held legally liable when a minor is served alcohol?
The legal drinking age in Florida is 21. Florida Statutes 562.11 establishes that anyone who sells, gives, or serves alcohol to a person who’s under 21 years of age does so illegally. Therefore, a business owner, bartender, cashier, or anyone else who serves alcohol has a legal duty to verify that the person to whom they’re serving a drink is 21 or older.
It’s important to note that third parties can only be held liable if they willfully sell alcohol to a person who’s under the legal drinking age, or who knowingly serves alcohol to a person who is known to be habitually addicted to alcohol. These factors are difficult to prove, but an attorney could help you find out through a process called discovery.
The Minor’s Parents
If the minor is under 18, Florida law requires that when the minor applies for a driver’s license, their parent or legal guardian has to also sign the application. If the minor gets into a car accident, the adult who signed the application will be held responsible for the accident. If the driver is 18 or older, the parents can be held jointly liable with the drunk driver if the parents consented to let their adult child drive their car.
The Driver’s Car Insurance Company
If none of the above applies to a case, the harmed party will have to seek damages directly from the drunk driver, their car insurance company, and — potentially — third parties who could also be found liable. For example, a motor vehicle manufacturer who knew a specific make and model of car had a defect and failed to notify drivers may be liable if the drunk minor caused an accident because of those vehicle defects.
What are the penalties?
Serving, selling, or allowing alcohol to be served to anyone under 21 is a misdemeanor in the second degree. This means that a person found liable for violating Florida Statutes 562.11 is exposed to a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
If the minor who drinks alcohol is an employee of the establishment and the employer allows the minor to drink while on the premises — or elsewhere while still on the clock — the employer may be found guilty of a misdemeanor in the first degree, exposing themselves to a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
What if the minor used a fake ID?
It’s illegal in Florida to misrepresent their age or the age of any other person by providing a fake ID. This applies to anyone who sells or gives a fake ID, as well as the minor using it. Anyone who does so is guilty of a misdemeanor in the second degree. If the person using the ID is under 17 years of age, they will be processed as a juvenile delinquent. Minors who violate this law will also get their driver’s license suspended or revoked.
What if the minor was a guest at a party?
Florida law is clear that it is unlawful for any person to sell, give, serve, or permit serving alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years of age. Therefore, if you host a party where alcohol will be served, and some of your guests are minors, you may be held liable for a subsequent DUI accident caused by the intoxicated minor.
When to Hire an Attorney
You should hire an attorney any time you get into a car accident. This is because time is of the essence when collecting evidence, and an experienced car accident attorney will know which questions to ask, whether it would be necessary to request video surveillance footage, and any additional factors that would affect possible settlements. While the State Attorney’s Office will handle the criminal side of the case and prosecute the drunk driver, you need someone handling every aspect of the accident — medical bills, lost wages, car repairs, emotional distress, loss of consortium, or wrongful death, if applicable.
If you got into a car accident with a drunk minor and were not at fault, let us help you.
Every car accident is different. There are many factors that determine a person’s level of liability, and that liability could be diminished, depending on the circumstances.
At Carey, Leisure & Neal, we have over three decades of combined experience successfully representing clients involved in car accidents. All of our attorneys are accessible and Board Certified in civil trial law.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.