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Holiday Party Host Liability from Modern Insurance Services

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Holiday Party Host Liability

Dec 4, 2017

Throwing a holiday party? A few simple precautions can add safety to the menu.

Whether at an office get together or at your home, take simple precautions to help everyone enjoy their food and drinks safely at your holiday parties:

Be a Responsible Party Host When Serving Alcohol If you plan to serve alcohol at any type of party, it is important to take steps to limit your liquor liability and make sure you are covered with the proper insurance. Social host liability is the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest. Social host liability, also known as Dram Shop Liability, is a law active in 43 states and can vary depending on the state. Most of these laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. There are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

While a social host is not liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest (as they are also negligent), the host can be held liable for third parties, and may even be liable for passengers of the guest who have been injured in their car.

Before planning a party in your home, it is important to speak with your insurance agent or company representative about your homeowners coverage and any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have for this kind of risk. Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but it is typically limited to $100,000 to $300,000, depending on the policy, which might not be enough.

Most importantly, whether you are hanging out with a small group of friends for cocktails or throwing a big family bash, remember that a good host is a responsible host, and takes steps to ensure guests get home safely if they have been drinking. Call the guest a cab, schedule an Uber or make sure they get a ride from a sober driver.

Tips to Protect Yourself and Guests If you plan to serve alcohol at a party, here are some tips from the Insurance Information Institute to promote safe alcohol consumption and reduce your social host liability exposure:

  • Understand your state laws. Before sending out party invitations, familiarize yourself with your state’s social host liability laws. These laws vary widely from state to state. Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises. Some extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors.
  • Consider venues other than your home.Hosting your party at a restaurant or bar with a liquor license, rather than at your home, will help minimize liquor liability risks.
  • Hire a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and are better able to limit consumption by partygoers.
  • Promote Designated Driving. Encourage guests to choose a designated driver who can drive other guests home.
  • Be responsible. As the host or hostess, don’t drink more than you should either so you can gauge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink. Also, don’t rush to refill their glasses when they are empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Know when to stop. The NFL stops serving beer at halftime at football games for a reason. Make sure to have water, coffee or other options available.
  • Make sure guests are safe. If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.

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