Whether you plan to go out for a few drinks at a pub or restaurant on a Saturday night or celebrate your friend’s engagement at your favourite nightclub, the owners and operators of those establishments are known as commercial hosts, and they have a legal responsibility to ensure your safety. This includes recognizing there’s a limit and helping you stay within it by not overserving you, not allowing you to get behind the wheel of a vehicle intoxicated, and making sure you have a safe way to get home. A commercial host may also be held liable for slip and falls, physical assaults, and other accidents related to the premises or public safety. These types of claims are often uniquely complicated and can raise several questions. Who is the host? Is it the bar owner, the bartender, or someone else? What about parties at people’s homes or at a workplace? There may also be questions regarding the role of a host and defining where their responsibilities begin and end. For example, if the doorman at a club sees that a patron is clearly over the limit and about to drive, would he be held partially liable if that person injured another driver or pedestrian after driving away? If you were injured in an alcohol-related accident, you may be able to claim compensation for your injuries. At Litwiniuk & Company, it won’t cost you anything to speak with a lawyer. Our Calgary Commercial Host Liability Lawyers will work tirelessly to advocate for you and ensure you get access to the benefits and compensation you are legally entitled to.
Drinks aside, who’s liable?
An establishment that sells alcohol for profit, such as a restaurant or bar, has a legal duty of care to ensure the safety of their customers. For example, a bartender who has been serving a customer drinks all night long and sees that customer reach for their keys, has a duty to keep that customer from driving and putting themselves or others in harm’s way. Drinking and driving injures and kills thousands of Albertans each year. Courts understand that an intoxicated person is likely to experience impaired thinking or reasoning, and consider the possible role of business owners, operators, and employees in accidents that may have been preventable. A handful of cases that reached the Supreme Court of Canada between 1973 and 1995 changed the landscape of liability for alcohol-related accidents and injuries at public establishments. These changes meant that restaurants and bars could be held liable to third parties who were injured by drunk drivers who became intoxicated at their establishment. If it is determined that the establishment is even partly at fault, the victim may be able to access compensation from them. This can be life changing for someone whose life has been severely impacted by their injuries.
As a side note: All business owners are required by law to provide a safe environment for their customers. A restaurant or bar owner may be held liable for injuries resulting from all kinds of things including:
- Unsafe premises such as wet , damaged, or uneven floors, inadequate lighting, or insufficient staff;
- Food poisoning;
- Assaults by employees (such as bouncers) or customers;
- Overserving alcohol;
- Failing to prevent a drunk patron from driving;
- Serving alcohol to underage customers;
- Sound, lighting, or other live entertainment equipment (such as fog machines for concerts) malfunctioning.
Helpful tips if you have been injured at a bar or restaurant.
Your health and safety are the number one priority. If you are seriously injured, seek medical attention right away. You may need to go to the hospital or have someone call an ambulance. Remember that alcohol and adrenaline might affect your ability to feel the full extent of your injuries. What you think could be a headache or mild concussion could be indicative of a much more serious internal injury. Whether or not you go to the hospital, it’s a good idea to get assessed by your family doctor as soon as possible after your accident. Don’t have one? Find one near you at Alberta Find A Doctor. You’ll get the care you need for your injuries, and you’ll be supporting your claim; your doctor’s treatment notes or medical reports could prove to be valuable pieces of evidence down the road. The longer you wait to see your doctor, the more difficult it may be to prove the cause of your injuries.
Report the injury right away. Provided you are not seriously injured, and the incident took place on the premises of the restaurant or bar, ask to speak with the owner or manager of the establishment. Tell them about the accident and any injuries you might have sustained. If you were assaulted by another person, ask the owner or operator to call the police. Provide as many details as you can about what happened, possible eyewitnesses, where you were, and when the incident happened. Get the name and number of the establishment’s owner and the bar’s insurance information.
Talk to eyewitnesses. The good news is that most incidents at a restaurant or bar usually take place in front of several witnesses. Ask potential eyewitnesses for their names and contact information. If they are willing, ask the person to write down what they saw. If police have been called to the scene, they may also ask for witness statements. In either case, the most important thing you can do is get the names and numbers of eyewitnesses. Memories fade and people can be difficult to track down over time so the sooner you can get a statement, the better.
Timely gathering of evidence. If you are able and it is safe to do so, make the most of your smartphone. Take photos, videos, and record notes to gather as much evidence as possible. If you were in shock or seriously hurt from your injury you may not have been able to gather any evidence at the time of the incident. However, there’s still hope. Many establishments have cameras, and our Calgary Commercial Host Liability lawyers are experts at gathering evidence after the fact. Remember that Personal Injury lawyers are often in a race against time when it comes to tracking down the evidence needed to build a solid case.
A Word on Social Host Liability
As the name suggests, a social host is usually a person who entertains a group of people in a non-commercial setting such as their home. This could be a BYOB, or “bring your own booze” event, which means that guests bring their own alcohol, or the host might provide drinks. While a social host is not usually held legally responsible for their guests’ actions, in certain rare cases, the courts may determine willful negligence causing significant harm that could result in liability. Determining liability is highly case-specific in this type of instance. For example, if a social host did not realize that a guest was intoxicated and that person injured another driver or pedestrian while driving home, it is unlikely that the host would be liable. However, if the host was clearly aware that their guest was intoxicated and planned to get behind the wheel and did nothing to stop them, that host could be found liable if the driver crashed into another person causing significant injury to a third party. If there is any question of liability, it’s always best to talk to an experienced Personal Injury lawyer.
Social drinking at workplace events. Is the employer liable?
Many employers and employees look forward to company social events, such as team dinners and annual holiday parties. Workplace social gatherings are a great way to show appreciation, have fun, and connect as a team. This might even look like a few colleagues getting together after a team game of baseball to have a few beers or share a bottle of wine. In either case, it’s fairly common for alcohol to be present at after-hours team gatherings. As the host of a company event, the employer must take steps to make sure partygoers are not over-served alcohol and that safe transportation is available for everyone to get home safely. If the company is negligent as a host to ensure the safety of those at the event, including guests, they may be held liable for resulting injuries.
Employers are most likely to be found liable when they:
- serve or provide alcohol to employees;
- are aware that an employee or guest is intoxicated; and
- fail to take adequate steps to prevent that person from suffering or causing harm.
Whether or not an employer is deemed by the courts to be a social or commercial host depends on several factors. For example, if an employer provides or supplies the alcohol at a company event, they would be considered a commercial host, especially if the employer holds a liquor license and has bartender. But if a few team members decide to get together and have a few drinks, this is more likely to fall under the category of social host. Have questions? Call or email us today to speak with one of our lawyers and get your questions answered – for free.
In Alberta, you generally have up to two years from the date of an accident to make a claim in court or your right to do so is lost forever. But it’s important not to wait as there may be other important deadlines, or other circumstances that may affect the deadline or your claim. If you have any questions about the limitation period for your claim, call or email us for a free consultation with one of our Calgary Commercial Host Liability Lawyers today.
Our Calgary Commercial Host Liability Lawyers are here to help.
Accidents involving alcohol can be a bit of a wild card. When it comes to these types of incidents, the specifics of the individual case will determine whether you are able to make a claim. Litwiniuk & Company has served thousands of people in Calgary and across Alberta for over 44 years. We understand the laws and how insurance companies work, and we recognize what you and your loved ones might be going through as a result of your injuries. It won’t cost you anything to speak with a lawyer and, if you do choose us, you don’t pay us anything until your case is resolved. You don’t have to go through this alone. Our team is here to answer your questions, support you through this difficult time and, most importantly, listen to you. Have questions? Give us a call or email us today.