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Wine-Tasting Tourists: A Danger on the Road?

By Renee Nordstrand on March 10, 2018

The area around Santa Barbara offers some of the most beautiful wine-tasting scenery in the country, so it is no surprise that people flock here for a fun day out.

When wine-tasters fail to act reasonably when getting behind the wheel, it can be a recipe for disaster. If you get into an accident with an inebriated wine-taster, you may be wondering what action you can take against him or her. While that depends on the specific details of the situation, there are a few general things you should know.

Is the Winery Liable?

With only one exception, the winery that served alcohol to the at-fault driver is not liable in California for the damages that person caused. While laws and court rulings have gone back and forth over the decades, the current Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Act in California gives businesses that serve alcohol immunity to civil lawsuits for damages caused by the customers they serve, even if the customer is clearly intoxicated.

The one exception to this immunity, however, is when a business serves alcohol to a minor who is clearly intoxicated. In this specific case, any winery that sells wine to an intoxicated minor may be held liable for damages he or she caused behind the wheel of a car.

Is the Driver Liable?

California is a “pure comparative negligence” state in terms of driver liability after an accident. This means that if you file a lawsuit against a person after a crash, both your responsibility and the other driver’s responsibility in causing the crash are considered. For example, if you were driving above the speed limit, even if the other driver was clearly intoxicated, then your damages for a lawsuit can be reduced by a percentage, since driving too fast makes you partially at fault for the collision.

What About Rental Cars?

Due to the natural beauty of Santa Barbara, people come here from all over the country on vacation, which means you’ll find a lot of drivers on the road in rental cars. Liability for a crash still falls on the other driver, and his or her personal automobile insurance usually comes into play after a collision. If the driver is uninsured, the rental company that owns the vehicle is liable as the owner of the vehicle for up to $15,000. The rental car company may be held liable if it failed in some way to properly maintain the rental vehicle. So long as the driver presents a valid driver’s license and has insurance coverage, the rental company is not liable for what he or she does—even if that driver has a history of poor driving or driving while intoxicated.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, take action and hold that person responsible. Call NordstrandBlack PC right now at (805) 962-2022 and tell us what happened. We will work with you to find compensation for your injuries and damages.

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