With Christmas and New Years right around the corner many people are getting ready for their annual holiday parties. However, hosts who serve alcohol need to take steps to limit their liquor liability and make sure they have the proper insurance coverage before the party begins.
Under Pennsylvania’s social host liability or “Dram Shop law”, a business or individual who gives alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person may be legally responsible for any damage that person might cause. While a social host may not be liable for injuries sustained by the drunken guest (as they are also negligent), the host may 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 homeowners 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 and may not be enough.
If you plan to serve alcohol at a holiday party the Insurance Information Institute offers the following tips to promote safe alcohol consumption and reduce your social host liability exposure:
- Make sure you understand your state laws. Before sending out party invitations, familiarize yourself with your state’s social host liability laws. These laws vary widely from state to state. Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises. Some extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors.
- Consider venues other than your home for the party. 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 partygoers.
- Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
- Be a responsible host/hostess. Limit your own alcohol intake so that you will be better able to judge 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 or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.
- Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
- 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.
- Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts as they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.
Thus, if 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 needs to take steps to ensure guests get home safely if they have been drinking. Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!