How to Host Holiday Events Responsibly

NOVEMBER 7, 2023

Holidays are around the corner, and it’s important to assess potential liability exposures associated with hosting an event. Everything from intoxicated guests and icy walkways to extension cords are hazards for which a host could be liable. Planning is key for the safety of your guests and asset protection.

Alcohol-Related Risks

The end-of-year holidays rank among the top 6 most dangerous times when it comes to liquor-related fatalities. Every 79 seconds, someone is killed or injured by a drunk driver. Further, approximately 37 people die each day due to drunk driving crashes.1

When hosting an event, think about the liability exposures associated with alcohol-related accidents. Both criminal and civil ramifications may be imposed for:

  • Furnishing liquor to underage guests
  • Guests who become injured due to intoxication
  • Car accidents that occur after guests leave

For example, social host liability laws, which vary widely from state to state, allow the victim of a drunk driver to sue the host who served the alcohol.

In the U.S., 48 states and the District of Columbia currently have enacted laws or existing case law that permit social hosts who serve liquor to guests who cause accidents to be held liable for any injury or death. Some states extend liability to injuries occurring anywhere an inebriated guest travels. In most states, the laws are particularly severe when the accident involves alcohol provided to a minor.

Familiarize yourself with the laws in your state if you’re planning on serving liquor to guests at your event. Having a plan in place — such as hiring a professional bartender, securing ride-sharing services for guests, or providing breathalyzer checks — is always the best course of action.

Limited Coverage for Social Host and Premises Liability Risks

Alcohol is not the only way party guests sustain injuries. Unsafe conditions at the home, like icy walkways, uneven floors, broken staircases, or collapsing balconies are all hazards that could bring legal ramifications.

Before inviting guests to your home, remove, repair or eliminate trip hazards such as loose carpets, children’s toys, cracks in the driveway, extension cords, or stairs not up to code. Further tips for event preparation are available in USI Insurance Services’ safety checklist for hosting social events.

Homeowners and Umbrella Coverage

Historically, party hosts would rely on homeowners insurance — typically $100,000 to $300,000 (depending on the policy) — for both social host and premises liability risks. Given the hardening insurance market, homeowners coverage is becoming more difficult and expensive to secure.

A homeowners policy may also not be sufficient to cover medical costs associated with most major injuries. Further, if the injured party retains counsel, the funds on the policy would be inadequate for defense costs, personal injury damages and potential civil penalties. A solution, however, does exist.

Event Coverage

Rather than risking your homeowners insurance and potentially having inadequate coverage at the time of loss, consider securing event coverage. Event coverage is an inexpensive policy and can be tailored for your specific needs. It may provide easy, inexpensive insurance coverage for your event and peace of mind for you, so you can enjoy the time with your guests.