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When an Underage Driver Causes a DUI Crash in Nevada

By David Boehrer | Posted on December 06, 2019

In Nevada, dram shop laws can hold establishments who serve alcohol to minors liable for injuries and property damages caused by DUI crashes.

Dram Shop Liability Laws

A “dram shop claim” or civil lawsuit against a Nevada business or individual who sells or serves alcohol is not allowed if the involved party is 21 years old or older. Dram shop liability in Nevada only applies if the intoxicated person in a DUI crash is a minor at the time of the drunk driving accident.

In 43 other states, dram shop laws allow a person/persons injured in a drunk driving accident to sue an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person if the drinker causes harm to someone after leaving that establishment. In states that impose dram shop laws, establishments that sell and serve alcohol can purchase liquor liability insurance (dram shop insurance) as protection against personal injury lawsuits. Since Nevada dram shop liability does not apply to any person of legal age, civil lawsuits handled by personal injury lawyers in Henderson often involve underage drunk drivers who cause DUI accidents.

Social Host Liability Laws

Nevada’s dram shop liability statute also allows an injured person to seek damages against a social host who furnishes alcohol to a minor or who allows a minor to drink alcohol on his/her property. If a minor guest at a private residence or social gathering becomes intoxicated and injures another person, the injury victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against the homeowner or host that held the social event. Under Nevada’s social host liability law, an injury victim can file a claim because the property owner allowed a minor to drink on the property.

Nevada social host statues also impose criminal liability on individuals who provide alcohol to minors under age 21. In Nevada, it is a misdemeanor offense to:

  • Sell or furnish alcohol to a minor person under age 21
  • Give money or valuables to a minor person under age 21, knowing that it will be used to buy alcohol or an alcohol beverage
  • Leave alcohol in a place with intent that a minor person under age 21 will retrieve it

Nevada DUI laws are much stricter for underage drivers than drivers over the age of 21. While drivers over age 21 have a legal alcohol limit of .08 BAC, underage drivers have a legal limit of .02 BAC. Underage drivers convicted of DUI face the same penalties as adult drivers which include fines up to $1,000; jail time, a six-month suspended sentence in juvenile hall; and a driver’s license suspension for 185 days.

Minor drivers under 18 who are arrested for a misdemeanor DUI are prosecuted in Nevada Juvenile Court. Drivers who are 18, 19 or 20 years old are prosecuted as adults in Criminal Court, whether they are charged with a misdemeanor or felony DUI. Nevada holds a strict “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving, so dram shop and social host liability laws are strongly supported for minors.

Damages and Filing Requirements

Nevada dram shop and social host liability cases are handled as civil lawsuits through a personal injury lawyer Henderson. This means that liability is imposed solely in terms of monetary damages. Common types of damages awarded in these cases include compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Consortium

If the injury victim’s employment includes childcare or housework services, the value of lost wages for those services is compensated.

In certain cases, Nevada allows an injured person to seek punitive damages which are usually awarded as punishment to a defendant who engages in willfully reckless or grossly negligent behavior. Punitive damages are imposed to send a message to a person who causes harm to another person with disregard for safety laws, physical injuries, and property damages. In most cases, the judge or jury in a civil lawsuit trial decides on the amount awarded for punitive damages, based on the amount awarded for compensatory damages. If the monetary award for compensatory damages is less than $100,000, punitive damages are limited to a maximum award of $300,000. If the monetary award for compensatory damages exceeds $100,000, punitive damages may be awarded up to a maximum amount equal to three times the compensatory damages.

In Nevada, a personal injury lawyer in Henderson must file a dram shop or social host liability civil lawsuit within the specified time limit set by the Nevada statute of limitations. In most cases, these claims must be filed within two years of the date of the injury.

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