Hosting in Your Home
What You Should Know About:
Liability and Insurance if You Are Hosting in Your Home
Throwing a party with alcohol? Take steps to protect yourself and your guests
What you should know:
- Social host liability, or Dram Shop Liability, laws are in effect in 39 states and expose party hosts (or homeowners) to liability risks.
- No-fun Fact: 38 percent of traffic fatalities that occurred on Super Bowl Sunday in 2012 were the result of impaired drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Social host liability puts some liability for a crash caused by an impaired driver on the owner of the location where the driver became impaired. Party foul!
- Homeowners (or renters) insurance typically provides liability protection, including defense costs, but there may be limits, restrictions or exclusions.
Planning to host a party at your home that includes alcohol? Along with ice and red plastic cups, put insurance and safety on the party planning list. In most states, a party’s host can be held liable for injuries or damage resulting from an accident caused by an impaired party guest. Along with making sure your guests have fun, it’s important to make sure they are safe while on your property and that they return safely home when the party’s over.
Insurance & Social Host Liability
At last count, 39 states have social liability (or “Dram Shop Liability”) statutes. Most of those laws provide an injured person – such as the victim of a drunk driver – the right to sue the person responsible for serving the alcohol, whether that person is a bartender/owner or a private citizen hosting a party in his or her own home.
Social Host Liability Laws often hold the party host responsible for the safety of party guests, as well as anyone injured by a party guest after they leave the event. As a homeowner, this could expose you to liability, even if someone – like a teenage child in your home – hosts a party without your consent and someone is injured or causes injury to someone else on their way home.
Protection begins with the right insurance coverage
Protecting yourself, your family and your guests starts with making sure you have Homeowners or Renters insurance with enough limits of liability. If your current liability limits are not sufficient to pay for the injuries and/or damage sustained by an accident victim, your personal assets could be at risk in a lawsuit.
If liquor liability (coverage for bodily injury or property damage caused by an intoxicated person) is covered by your Homeowners or Renters Insurance policy, the limits can range from $100,000 to $300,000, but that may not be enough. Your insurance agent or company can help you understand what is covered under your insurance policy, along with any exclusions, conditions and limitations.
Higher limits may be available – ask your insurance agent or company
Remember, as a homeowner or renter, you likely have the option to purchase higher liability limits for your property for an additional premium, or consider an Umbrella policy, which can provide limits of $1 million or more, and are available after limits on your other policies are reached.
Common sense can help you minimize your risk
Keeping yourself and your guests safe means being a responsible party host. These common-sense tips will help make sure everyone has a good time during and after the party:
- Familiarize yourself with your state’s social host liability laws, which vary from state to state.
- Encourage guests to pick a designated driver so that he or she can drive other guests home. If you’re attending a party and plan to drink alcohol, plan in advance for a sober driver to take you home.
- Be a responsible host or hostess and limit your own alcohol intake so you can judge your guests’ sobriety.
- Consider hiring a professional bartender, since most are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and may be better able to limit consumption by your guests.
- Offer non-alcoholic drinks and always serve food during the party. Stop serving alcohol toward the end of the evening and switch to coffee, tea, water and soft drinks.
- If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, arrange a ride with a sober guest, a cab or a ride share, or have them sleep over at your home.
- Consider installing an app on your smartphone to summon ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft, so you can have a car come to retrieve any guests you believe should not be driving on their own.
- Talk to the young adults in your home – set rules and make sure you know what is happening in your home while you’re away.
- Ensure safe walkways by shoveling snow to make a path, raking or sweeping leaves and other debris away from porches, decks, sidewalks and driveways and trimming low-hanging branches that intrude on walkways. Also, keep your walkways, decks and entrances well lit.