You’re hosting a birthday party at your home. There will be friends, fun, and alcohol. Are you responsible for guests who have too much to drink?
In many states, including Indiana, you may be. Under the legal theory known as social host liability, private individuals serving alcohol in a non-commercial setting can be held liable if an intoxicated guest injures someone. So when you serve alcohol at a party—whether it’s for a birthday, the Super Bowl, March Madness, holidays, or any other occasion at all—you should take steps to limit your liability.
The Insurance Information Institute shares the following advice for creating a safer party and reducing your exposure to social host liability:
- 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. Among those that do, some limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises while others extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Still others only impose liability related 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.
- If you will be hosting the party at your home, speak with an insurance professional about your homeowners coverage. Homeowners insurance usually provides some liquor liability coverage, but it is typically limited to $100,000 or $300,000—which might not be enough.
- 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.
Be a responsible host. Take action to reduce your social host liability and to ensure your guests get home safely.