Teen Drinking Can Quickly Become A Big Problem for Parents

12 Aug

While teen drinking rates have dropped over the last decade, it’s still a pretty common occurrence. According to a 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), roughly 1 in 5 kids between the ages of 12 and 20 say they have consumed alcohol recently.

It doesn’t stop with just drinking, teens also get behind the wheel after drinking. CDC data shows that about 1 in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives. All of this can impact you if your teen (or you as a parent) make alcohol available to minors or even make it easy to access. The penalty can vary from a fine to jailtime not to mention the possibility of a lawsuit if someone’s child ends up injured or killed. 

According to the 2017 Monitoring the Future survey from the University of Michigan, a majority of high school seniors, in fact 87 percent of them, said that it would be “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get alcohol. The numbers were not much better for sophomores with 72 percent claiming they could get booze easily. A whopping 54 percent of these underage drinkers said they got the alcohol from family or friends. 

These numbers do not bode well for parents. In most states it is illegal to provide alcohol to minors and if give or purchase booze for a minor you may end up with a hefty fine or even a misdemeanor hitting your record. This is true even if you don’t supply the booze but let teens drink in your home. You could be headed for a felony charge if one of the minors gets behind the wheel after drinking and injuries others or themselves. 

Social Host Liability Laws

Many states now have social host liability laws on the books which means that a person who hosts an event that serves alcohol can be held responsible if one of their guests drinks too much and ends up getting an accident, hurting themselves or others. The hosts share of liability will vary by state. 

As an example, if Joe and Jane have a party and their friend Jack drinks too much and gets in a car accident on his way home injuring Julie, the hosts (Joe and Jane) may find themselves in hot water with the police and on the wrong end of a lawsuit. 

While Julie will certainly be able to sue Jack for damages, he may also be able to sue Joe and Jane if they live in a state with social host liability laws. These laws vary by state and in some cases, Julie would only be able to sue if Jack was a minor. It always pays to understand the various liquor laws in your state when planning a party, so you are aware of your liability. 

It’s not just when you willingly supply alcohol, you can also be charged even if you are unaware underage drinking is happening:

Example 1: You are having a party at your house that includes adults and underage teens who are friends of your children. You notify both your teen and their friends that under no circumstances are they allowed to drink. Unfortunately, they fail to listen and one or two of the teens sneak some beers, end up a bit drunk and are involved in an accident on their way home. 

Despite the fact that you explicitly forbid underage drinking and were unaware it was happening in your home, legally you will be responsible because you supplied the alcohol. You could be on the hook for medical bills as well as the cost of a lawsuit. 

Example 2: You are out of town and your teen throws a party, serving alcohol. Despite the fact that you were very clear that they were not to have a party or anyone at your house, if one of the teens ends up drunk and is in a car accident you could end up be responsible. Again, medical bills and the cost of a lawsuit could fall to you. 

Example 3:  Your teen throws a party at your house when you are out of town. They do not supply any booze but allow other teens to bring alcohol and drink it at your house. If one of these teens ends up in an accident after leaving your home due to drinking, you may or may not be responsible. Your liability will depend on your state laws, in some states you may be found liable while others may rule that you were not liable because you did not supply the alcohol. 

The Consequences Can Be Severe

It is never a great idea to supply underaged teens with alcohol. Depending on where you live you could end up serving a bit of jail time, have your license suspended and even be sued. Lawsuits can quickly spiral out of control and the costs of defending the lawsuit and any settlements or judgements can end up falling to you. These types of costs can quickly drain a savings account or even result in a loss of other assets. 

Laws can vary dramatically between states, as an example, in Missouri a parent or legal guardian can provide alcohol to a minor child but you can be held responsible if teens unrelated to you are drinking or you host a party where underage drinking is happening. In Florida, it is illegal to provide alcohol to minors in any situation. 

Before hosting a party where teens will be present, always make sure you fully understand the laws of your state. Consider putting an umbrella policy in place which ups your liability insurance. Umbrella policies are very affordable and are sold in $1 million increments. 

Tags: , , , , ,