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holiday drinking liability

Holiday Drinking & Social Host Liability


With the holiday season quickly approaching, there will be a number of holiday parties over the next few months hosted by workplaces, family and friends. Did you know when alcohol is involved, the host has specific responsibilities to keep everyone safe called Social Host Liability?

Be a Responsible Party Host When Serving Alcohol
Whether hosting a New Years Eve party, a high school or college reunion after Thanksgiving or possibly a Super Bowl party in your home, if you plan to serve alcohol, 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 in nearly every jurisdiction 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 generally 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 homeowner’s 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.

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. All states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors or to a visibly intoxicated person (“VIP”).
  • 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 party-goers. Make sure the bartender has specific training in this area.
  • Promote Designated Driving. Require 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 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. No exceptions!

If you are planning a holiday party this season and want to talk with one of our insurance advisers to see if you’re appropriately covered, contact us here.