Social host liability 101

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From summer cookouts to dinner parties and beyond, hosting events at your home are a great way to bring your friends and family together. Of course, you also know to expect the unexpected. Things can and do go wrong. It’s important to put breakable antiques out-of-reach, keep the sangria far away from your sofa, and make sure an adult has their eyes on the pool at all times.

But have you ever considered what would happen if someone is harmed—at your party or afterwards?

As a social host, you take on significant responsibility for your guests. If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, it can cover some kinds of liability. In addition, your state may have social host responsibility laws that can hold you responsible for underage drinking, drunk driving, and more. Thus, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about social host liability insurance. Let’s do this.

What is social host liability?

As a party host, you take on liability in the case that your guest or a third party is injured or experiences property damage as a result of your event. When you’re hosting your party, you may not envision your guests injuring themselves or others, but it’s always possible (especially when alcohol is in the mix).

Social hosts take on two kinds of liability:

General liability – Liability in the case that someone sues them after an incident during their event (property damage, bodily injury, medical costs, etc.)

Social host liability/liquor liability – Liability in the event that one of your guests goes on to injure someone (especially after drunk driving)

Next, we’ll take a closer look at both kinds of liability and the insurance policies that can help protect you against risk.

General liability & hosting

When you host events at your home, your homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s insurance policy should cover a wide range of liability. This kind of insurance doesn’t just protect you against financial loss in the case of vandalism or natural disaster, but also against third-party claims like the following:1

Bodily injury

You rent a bouncy house for your child’s birthday party. Should a guest be injured while dismounting the slide, you could be held liable.

3rd-party property damage

You love to get the grill going on sunny days. Should an error in lighting it singe a guest’s attire, you could be held liable.

Defense costs

You hope your friends and family won’t sue you for an accident at your party. However, sometimes, if health insurance or auto insurance won’t cover their costs, they may feel they have no other option. Should a guest sue you, you could be responsible for your own legal costs.

Medical liability coverage

Should a guest have an allergic reaction to latex or peanuts in your home, you could be responsible for the cost of their ER visit.

Luckily, if you have an active homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance policy, you should be covered. However, it’s important to note that none of the above scenarios involved alcohol. Because of the prevalence of drunk driving, special laws cover liability related to alcohol.

Social host liability & alcohol

While your existing insurance can cover you against bodily injury and property damage, many policies contain an exclusion for damage caused by guests you’ve served alcohol.

Like dram shop laws, social host liability laws can hold a party host responsible in the event that an intoxicated guest causes bodily injury or property damage—even on the drive home2. It’s important to note that:

  • In most states, social host liability laws only apply to incidents where hosts knowingly served alcohol to minors.
  • State by state social host liability laws vary.
  • However, even in the absence of social host liability laws, you may still be held responsible for damage caused by a minor or adult guest if you’ve overserved them alcohol.

Want to protect yourself against liquor liability? Consider liquor liability insurance.

Liquor liability insurance 101

If you’re serving alcohol, you want to make sure that your insurance coverage extends to bodily injury, third-party property damage, and medical costs caused by guests that you’ve served alcohol.

Check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to see if it provides this kind of coverage. If your existing coverage does not cover liquor liability, consider a special event insurance policy with liquor liability insurance.

However, be sure to understand that a liquor liability insurance policy will not cover all the damages that might result from drinking. Common policy exclusions include:

  • Incidents caused by underage drinking — Serving alcohol to minors is considered a criminal offense, and almost all insurance excludes coverage in cases of criminal wrongdoing.
  • Damage to your personal property — For this, make sure you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
    • As a social host, you can protect yourself from most liability—as long as you make sure underaged guests aren’t served alcohol.

I’ve hired a vendor. Doesn’t their insurance cover that?

When you host a party, you may hire professional caterers or bartenders to staff your event. Before the big day, be sure to ask whether they have general liability insurance and professional liability insurance:

  • General liability insurance provides coverage in case of client or third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage (usually excluding alcohol-related incidents)
  • Professional liability insurance, also called errors & omission (E&O) insurance, provides coverage in case of claims of errors, omissions, and mistakes related to a business’ professional services

It’s important to book reliable vendors that have their own insurance policies. However, your vendors’ insurance doesn’t protect you from all risks. As the party host, your state’s social host laws may still apply to you. In addition, you could be named as a third party in a lawsuit brought against one of your vendors.

Taking out your own insurance is the best way to enjoy the big shebang knowing you’re protected from risk.

Put on your dancing shoes

Don’t let potential liability keep you from enjoying your own party.

  • Make sure you’re covered from general liability with renter’s insurance or homeowner’s insurance.
  • Make sure liquor liability insurance is included in your policy. If it’s not, buy a standalone policy.
  • Ask your vendors if they’re insured.

Once you’ve crossed these items off your to-do list, let your hair down and get ready to enjoy the party.

Invite Thimble to the party

Here at Thimble, our goal is to make insurance easy. Our special event insurance and add-on liquor liability insurance is offered on a revolutionary, on-demand basis. Affordable hourly and daily policies can help you insure your event and keep costs down, too. If you need to make changes to your policy, add Additional Insureds and generate as many Certificates of Insurance as you want—for free.

If your vendors need insurance, send them our way. With over 120+ covered professions, our general liability and professional liability policies are also flexible and on-demand. They get a quote and insurance in less than 60 seconds.

You want to make sure your party’s a blast, but it’s also important to stay protected from risk. Add Thimble to your guest list and rest easy knowing we’ve got you covered.

Sources:

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.

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