Each state has specific rules governing third-party liability for alcohol-related car accidents—in other words, when someone other than the person who caused the accident may be legally responsible for resulting injuries and other damages. In Utah, in certain situations, the injured person may be able to file a lawsuit against the business or individual who provided the alcohol.
When a third-party liability case involves an alcohol vendor, it's known as a "dram shop" claim. When this type of claim involves a social host who provides alcohol, it's called a "social host liability" claim. Here's how Utah's laws apply in these types of situations.
Section 32B-15-201 of the Utah Code is Utah's dram shop law. Under this law, an alcohol vendor can generally be held liable for the actions of an intoxicated patron if the vendor provides alcohol to the patron and the patron:
Here is a sample situation in which Utah's dram shop law might apply. Suppose that Darold stops at Bennie's Bar for a few drinks. Although Darold is already stumbling, slurring his speech, and smells of alcohol when he walks into the bar, the bartender serves him several drinks. Eventually, Darold decides to go into the bar's basement, where the restrooms are located. As he walks down the stairs, however, he stumbles and falls, colliding with Padma, who is also on the staircase. Padma falls to the bottom of the stairs and is injured.
Padma can seek damages directly from Darold for causing her injuries through his negligence. She can also bring a dram shop claim against Bennie's bar for continuing to serve Darold alcohol even though Darold was already apparently under the influence of alcohol when he walked into the place.
In Utah, social host liability is limited to situations in which a host who is 21 or older provides alcohol to a guest who's under the legal drinking age. A social host generally can't be held liable for damages resulting from the host's decision to serve alcohol to an adult, even if that adult is already under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time.
Individuals who are injured in alcohol-related accidents in Utah can generally seek damages for losses like medical bills, damaged property, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
However, as with other kinds of civil claims in Utah, a dram shop or social host liability claim must be filed within the time limit set by the state's statute of limitations. In most circumstances, the claim must be filed within two years of the date of injury, or there is a very good chance it will be dismissed by the court. But, given that every situation is different, you should always consult an attorney as soon as possible after suffering an injury to ensure your rights are protected.