Hosting a Party? Check Your Insurance Coverage

December 6, 2010

The Insurance Information Institute (III) hopes everyone had a happy Thanksgiving, and offers best wishes for the various December holidays, and the coming New Year.

As its gift to everyone, the III wants us all to remember to review the liability coverage in our homeowners or renters/condo insurance policies before we start planning any more parties, because cold weather plus warming alcohol plus guests driving home means party hosts are responsible if a guest is legally intoxicated when they leave, and is subsequently involved in a car accident.

The legal term for this is “social host liability,” and it extends to both criminal and civil responsibility whenever you serve alcohol to a guest. While some states don’t consider you liable, other states increase your liability if your alcohol-drinking guest injures or kills another person. It’s even worse if you served alcohol to a minor, so never, ever do this.

Wherever you live, you should take steps to keep your party guests safe after they leave your home. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Planning a party? Check with your insurance agent to see what kind of coverage you have under your homeowners policy, and be sure to ask about special conditions or limitations relating to serving alcohol to guests.
  2. Think about hiring a professional bartender, or at least ask a friend to be your designated mixologist. This will keep drink sizes reasonable, and allows consumption to be monitored. Professional bartenders are also trained to detect intoxication, and are good about refusing to serve those who have over-indulged. It’s also a good idea to keep your own alcohol consumption fairly low.
  3. Stop serving alcoholic drinks about an hour before your party ends, and also make sure you have non-alcoholic drinks on hand. Before each of your guests leaves, assess their situation, and if you think anyone is too drunk to drive, offer to call a cab, arrange a ride, drive them home yourself, or offer a spare bed or couch for the night.

Remember that if you live anywhere where winter involves snow and ice, alcohol consumption is even more dangerous, so keep your eye on your guests, and don’t be afraid to keep hold of their keys.