Scary Thought: You Could Be Liable if Guests Drink Too Much

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Scary Thought: You Could Be Liable if Guests Drink Too Much

Halloween can be a fun time of trick-or-treating, jack-o’-lanterns and costume parties, but it can also be a deadly time of increased drunk driving. Anyone hosting a Halloween party should take steps to limit their liquor liability and make sure they have the proper insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Social host liability, the legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who furnishes liquor to a guest, can have a serious impact on party throwers. Social host liability 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 if the person who was provided the alcohol is killed or injured, or kills or injures another person. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors. 
Most people are aware that serving alcohol to minors is illegal, yet a survey of young people shows that the most common sources of alcohol are from their own home or from persons over the age of 21 who purchase alcohol for them,” said Loretta Worters, vice president with the I.I.I. “Depending on the jurisdiction, violations of social host laws can lead to civil or criminal fines, imprisonment and monetary damages awards.”
Recently, some states ruled that anyone 16 or over throwing a party (typically while parents are away from the home) will now be held responsible. 
Worters pointed out if you are throwing a party where alcohol is served, it is the hosts’ responsibility to make sure that guests are capable of driving home safely. “You don’t want to allow anyone who has been drinking to drive and possibly kill or injure themselves or others on the road.”
In 2008, (the most recent statistics available), 58 percent of all highway fatalities across the nation on Halloween night (6 p.m. October 31 to 5:59 a.m. November 1) involved a driver or a motorcycle rider with a BAC of .08 or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 


How to Protect Yourself—and Your Assets
If you plan to host a Halloween party and serve alcohol, the I.I.I. offers the following tips on how to have a successful and safe party:

“Talk with your insurance agent about your liability insurance coverage and any exclusions, conditions or limitations your policy might have for this kind of risk,” advised Worters. “Appropriate liability insurance coverage is necessary, but your insurance may not be enough to cover a judgment against you as a social host. If you are also charged criminally, then it is possible that your policy will not cover the civil judgment.”