Understanding Your Risk When Hosting a Holiday Party

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If you’re throwing a party this holiday season, it is important to understand your risk as the host. Today’s guest column is by Maria Lampros of Guard Insurance Agency

With the festive and sometimes hectic holiday season upon us, it is easy to forget the serious responsibility involved with hosting a party.

Party hosts need to understand the responsibilities when inviting people into their homes and serving food and drinks. Homeowners and party hosts can be held liable if a guest (or third party) is injured in an accident related to alcohol consumed at your event.

Most people understand the liability that comes with serving alcohol; however, a casserole or dessert can bring just as many risks as an alcoholic drink if someone becomes sick after consuming food at your party. It should be noted that it doesn’t matter if the food came from your kitchen, the local caterer or pizza parlor, your next door neighbor or friend, if served in your home, you are liable if anyone gets sick.

Hosts and partygoers alike should be responsible, exercise caution and know your limits, however most risks cannot be entirely eliminated. Planning ahead and understanding the risks should begin with reviewing your homeowners or renter’s insurance policy to ensure adequate liability coverage.

Look over the liability portion of your policy to ensure it provides you protection if you’re sued and found liable for an accident involving a guest who consumed alcohol or got sick after consuming food at your party. Homeowners insurance may provide some liquor liability coverage depending on your policy form and endorsements. Purchasing a personal “umbrella” liability policy may be prudent, particularly for the frequent party host. In some cases, special event coverage may be available which can be tailored specific to the event.

Party hosts should protect themselves with adequate insurance coverage in addition to exercising reasonable precautions to prevent risks. Consider these party host safety tips:

  • Create a clear path – Keep the area around your home and leading to your door clear of obstructions to guests from stumbling and getting hurt.
  • Lights on for safety – Turn on exterior lights so guests are able to see clearly as they approach your property.
  • Confine your pets – Consider keeping your pets away from your guests, as they might jump on, knock down, frighten, or even bite unfamiliar visitors.
  • Avoid open flames – While candles and luminaries can inspire the holiday spirit, they can also be easily overturned and result in fire. Consider light sticks and battery-powered lanterns instead.
  • Know your guests – Limit the guest list to those you know.
  • Create the menu carefully – Serve food that is filling and offer alternative non-alcoholic beverages. Also, be sure that the food you serve is not undercooked or spoiled and follow proper food handling, heating/cooling and storage recommendations.
  • Alcohol awareness – Never serve alcohol to minors. Take measures to ensure your guests get home safely if they have been drinking and be prepared to arrange alternative transportation or provide overnight accommodations if necessary. Stop serving alcohol well before the end of the party and serve additional coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • Stay alert – Always remember your responsibilities as a host.
  • Talk with your insurance agent – Discuss your event regarding your insurance coverage and your liability coverage particularly if there are any exclusions, limitations or conditions your policy might have for this kind of risk.

Avoidance can prove prudent. Hiring a professional bartender can help in recognizing signs of intoxication and limit consumption of alcohol. You may want to consider hiring an off-duty police officer to monitor guests’ sobriety and/or handle any alcohol-related incidents. Perhaps consider hosting your party at a bar or restaurant with a liquor license to help minimize risk.

Whether you are hosting a small group of friends or large event, remember that a good host is a responsible host.

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