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Underage Drinking: Parents are Responsible Whether They Know About it or Not

Posted August 7, 2019

Kids are out of school. Parents are at work. That leaves at least eight hours a day for kids to get into trouble, and day drinking isn’t off limits. Moreover, if you take overnight trips without your kids, that leaves your property open to party central. And with 90% of alcohol consumed by minors occurring as binge drinking sessions, going out to a quiet dinner could even put you at risk.  The following statistics issued by the Centers of Disease Control show the prevalence of underage drinking in the US and the harm it can cause–harm that parents can be liable for if it happens on their property. 

  • Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year.
  • People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. 
  • On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.
  • In 2013, there were approximately 119,000 emergency room visits by persons aged 12 to 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

What are Parents (or Other Adults) Liable For? 

Under the Social Host Law, it is illegal to provide alcoholic beverages to individuals under the age of 21, and can hold violators liable for injuries or accidents caused by intoxicated youth. But what if you didn’t provide it, and you’re unaware that it’s happening at your home? Even if you didn’t know about the drinking, you could be on the hook for lawsuits, fines, and even jail time for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And that’s not even considering the lifelong toll it would have on your conscience if one of the kids suffered fatal alcohol poisoning or was in a car accident that resulted in theirs or others’ deaths. 

Here’s another twist: New York has a “permissive use doctrine,” which states the owner of a vehicle may be held responsible if they gave either express or implied permission for another person to drive the car and an accident subsequently occurred. That means, regardless of where a kid was drinking, if they’re driving your car, you have liability for the consequences.

If you’re thinking “not at my house, not in my car, not my kid,” take another gander at those statistics and consider a serious sit-down talk about how irresponsible behavior could not only get them in trouble, but could land YOU in jail. 

If you find out that an accident has happened due to underage drinking at your home or your child has been arrested for an underage DUI, call an attorney immediately. In the meantime, make sure your general liability coverage is current. 

Data Source: Centers of Disease Control

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