There’s nothing like the combination of good food and good friends. Whether it’s a potluck dinner for a few of the neighbors, or a wedding for 500 guests, these are events that make memories. However, those memories could easily turn into bad ones if one of your guests leaves your home intoxicated and gets behind the wheel.
Most people are aware that businesses like restaurants and bars have legal obligations to stop serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons. But you may not be aware that in some states, individual hosts also have legal responsibilities when it comes to serving alcohol. Legislation called “social host” laws makes you responsible for the actions of your inebriated guests after they leave your party venue. Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have social host laws according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
There are specific circumstances that must be present for a social host to be liable for the injury or damage caused by an intoxicated guest:
- They were aware, or should have been aware, that the guest who caused the injury/damage was intoxicated.
- They knew that the guest who caused the injury/damage would be driving after they left the gathering.
There are some ways to protect yourself from liability if you do serve alcohol at your next party:
- Stop serving alcohol after a couple of hours and serve coffee instead.
- Make sure there is plenty of food available for your guests to eat while they are drinking.
- Have designated drivers to take intoxicated guests home.
- Keep a list of cab companies’ phone numbers by the telephone so that it is accessible if you need to call a cab for a guest who shouldn’t drive.
- Remain sober so that you can monitor your guests’ sobriety level.
Another good way to protect yourself from liability is to check your homeowner’s policy before your next party to determine what your coverage is for property damage and liability. In the event of an incident, your homeowner’s policy would pay for covered liabilities up to the policy limit. You should also consider purchasing a personal liability umbrella policy for increased protection.
Apartment dwellers and owners of condos and co-ops typically aren’t covered for liability and personal property damage under their building’s insurance policy. Generally, the building policy only covers the common areas. That’s why renters should have renter’s insurance, and condo and co-op owners should purchase a HO-6 homeowner’s policy that is specifically designed for their needs. They should also review their condominium or co-op association’s master policy to determine what their responsibilities are in the event of an incident.
If you hire professional caterers and bartenders for your event, don’t assume that you are covered under their liability insurance. You must be specifically named on the policy to be covered in the event of an accident. However, if you are named on your party professionals’ liability policy, their insurance company will defend you if you are sued. That’s why it’s important to verify that they have liability insurance, the specific situations that are covered, any exclusions, and if you can be a named insured on the policy.