Party Season is Coming: The Facts About Your Legal Responsibilities as a Social Host

The rules of the party host

Planning a party any time soon? If you’ll be serving alcohol you need to know about a set of rules called Social Host Laws in the majority of U.S. states that could make you legally responsible for accidents and injuries that happen to or are caused by guests who drink too much. So before you party, Ask yourself, “Am I legally responsible for guests who drink to much at my house?”  This question could change your life.

What are social host laws?

Basically, they say the impact of alcohol consumption extends beyond the drinker to anyone who provided the drinks. You could be liable for injuries to a guest who drank at your party and drove home. But it doesn’t stop there.

You might also be liable for the injuries to any passengers in his car or another car involved in the accident along with any damages to property he ran into. The first target will be your homeowners insurance. If the liability portion isn’t high enough, you’ll be on the financial hook for the balance as well as monetary fines for over-pouring.

The same liabilities apply if a guest drinks too much and walks through your plate glass window or falls off your balcony.

You could even be liable for a party thrown in your home by a relative in your absence.

Essentially, if you’re the legal resident of a home or rental property, you are responsible for the safety of guests on your premises and their behavior after they leave.

Tips to protect yourself and prevent claims on your policy

  • Have your party at a commercial venue and the business serve the drinks and assume the risks.
  • Never let guests pour their own drinks. Hire a professional bartender and empower her to tell guests they’ve had enough.
  • Never force refills on your guests.
  • Provide food and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Collect car keys when guests arrive and don’t return them if you think someone in too drunk to drive. Offer to call a cab, find a sober guest to drive them home or let them sleep it off in a guest room.
  • If you’re going out of town, lock up your liquor securely and ask a trusted neighbor to call the police if they notice any under-age partying going on.

If you’re concerned that you don’t have adequate liability coverage or just want to check out policy options, you can compare homeowners insurance coverage online here.


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