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Thursday, October 7, 2021

What You Need to Know Before You Host Your Next House Party

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

After being held in limbo due to Covid-19 for better than a year and a half, many homeowners are considering hosting parties this holiday season.  With Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, I thought I’d take the time to clue you into the potential liability issues you need to understand before you host your next house party.

What me worry? – While millions of people think nothing of throwing a party, what a national survey conducted by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America discovered was the fact that many homeowners don’t realize they can be held liable should their guests inadvertently come to any harm:

      1.      In the event of an alcohol related accident, many states hold homeowners liable if their guests were served adult beverages at their party.

      2.      Likewise, all too many homeowners are unaware that they can be held liable should a guest injure themself while on the host’s property or due to a case of food poisoning related to something served at the party.

      3.      If a guest should inadvertently injure another guest at the party, do you know who’s legally liable?

What could go wrong? – While a holiday party is supposed to be joyous events, there’s always the possibility that something can go wrong.  If worst comes to worst, do you know if your homeowner’s policy will cover the following:

      1.      If your dog bites a guest.

      2.      If one of your guests accidentally starts a fire that damages or destroys your home.     

      3.      If a fight breaks out at your party and guests are injured.

      4.      If you hire a photographer or a band and some of their equipment gets damaged or goes missing.

      5.      After the party you discover that something you own is broken or missing.

 What can you do to make sure your guests are safe?  While the hosts can’t think of everything that can go wrong during a party, they can take precautions to make sure their guests are relatively safe by taking some simple precautions:

      1.      Make sure the dog is kept away from guests by sequestering it in the garage or a back bedroom until all the guests have departed the premises.

      2.      If someone is showing symptoms of illness, you should ask them to leave.     

      3.      Encourage guests to have a designated driver if they’re going to imbibe or call an Uber yourself to prevent guests from driving after drinking.

      4.      Keep track of the number of drinks you serve your guests.

      5.      Make sure you offer non-alcoholic beverages at your party.

      6.      Set a designated time to stop serving alcohol.    

      7.      If you determine a guest has had enough to drink, don’t hesitate to refuse to serve them another cocktail.

      8.      If a guest gets tipsy, you need to make sure they don’t inadvertently injure themselves or another guest at your party.  If this means escorting them off the property and hailing an Uber for them instead of letting them drive while intoxicated, better to make sure they get home safe and sound than to risk having them drink and drive.

      9.      If any guest gets too rowdy, you need to be prepared to calm them down or ask them to leave before an altercation takes place that could result in an injury to themselves or another guest. 

      10.  Make sure that every guest who’s served alcohol is legally of age.  In Florida, the parents of any underage drinker who gets hurt or killed after having consumed alcohol served at a party can legally sue the host for any damages caused or wrongful death. The host can also expect to have their driver’s license suspended as well.

      11.  If you allow your children to host a holiday party, make sure the alcohol is kept under lock and key.  In Florida, parents can be held liable if minors are served alcohol on their property, even if their children were the hosts and they had no knowledge that alcoholic beverages were served.

Since social host liability laws vary from state to state, do you know which ones that apply to you? You also need to know how they apply to you.  For instance, in Florida, a party host isn’t legally liable for serving alcohol to someone of legal drinking age who later is arrested for a DUI or is involved in an accident on their way home from the party.  However, that same party host may still be legally liable if they were aware the guest was intoxicated and yet they allowed him or her to get behind the wheel.

Do you have sufficient insurance coverage to protect your assets in the event a guest sues you?  Before you host your next party, it would be a good idea to talk to your agent to review your homeowner’s policy to make sure you have sufficient liability coverage.  You may also wish to discuss the possibility of adding an umbrella policy to increase your liability limits by $1 million in added coverage.   A yearly investment of $200 or less is all it takes to make sure you don’t wind up being the ultimate party pooper.

Catherine Powell is owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to protect you and yours on the water, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsurance.com/

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