A holiday party can be festive, joyous...and potentially hazardous to your financial health. You want to enjoy the company of family and friends. But, if you’re not very careful, you could end up getting sued for what happens at your party...or what happens AFTER your party.
If you are hosting a private non-business party at which alcohol is served, here are Ten Tips to keep you out of a lawsuit.
• Before the date of the party, read your homeowners, renters or condo-owners insurance policy and discuss the party with your insurance agent. Be certain it specifically provides enough liability coverage for events from the negligence of the policyholder, which is YOU.
• Consider buying a Liability Umbrella policy to supplement your regular coverage. Premiums for $1 million of coverage run about $300 to $500 annually. Be certain there’s no gap between the existing policy and coverage provided by the umbrella policy. For example, if your homeowners insurance has liability limits of $300,000 and your umbrella policy covers costs above $400,000, you’d have to make up the $100,000 difference if you have a claim. Got $100,000 just lying around?
• Consider making guests hand over their car keys when they arrive. They are more likely to hand over the car keys before they start drinking than they will be after a few party beverages.
• Don't serve alcohol to ANYBODY under the legal drinking age in your state. If you are sued, your insurance policy might not provide coverage.
• Don't let your guests behind the bar. Consider hiring a professional bartender for your party. He will know better when to say ‘No’ to a guest who’s had one too many. The hired bartender should have his own liability insurance and provide you a copy of his insurance certificate BEFORE the party.
• Serve plenty of food. This will help keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach. However, consider avoiding salty and spicy foods which make people thirsty. Why do you think bars set out pretzels and popcorn?
• Serve lots of non-alcoholic beverages.
• Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party ends. Forget the old wives’ tale about serving coffee to drunks. Caffeine doesn’t sober a person up...it only makes for a wide-awake drunk driving a car.
• If someone obviously has had too much to drink, drive them home, make up a bed, or call a cab. But keep them from getting behind the wheel. They may insist that they’re sober enough to drive, but don’t you believe it. Use the final tip!
• Spend about $50.00 and buy a home breath analyzer. They’re listed all over the ‘Net, including Amazon. Then, make each person leaving the party blow in the breathalyzer to see what they blood alcohol level is. Too high and they don’t drive home. PERIOD.
Follow these Top Ten Tips, and you’ll have a happy holiday party!