Planning on hosting a party any time soon? If yes, then you may want to consider what effect your good times could have on your finances and think twice before serving alcoholic beverages at your event.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 12,988 people died of alcohol related accidents in 2007. On average a person is killed by a drunken driver every 40 minutes. The number of fatalities increases during the holiday season. The NHTS Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2001 TO 2005, shows that the number of driving fatalities rises to 45 a day during Christmas and up to 54 a day for New Years.
Keeping these statistics in mind when planning your celebrations at any time of year, can save lives and reduce your risk of liability if your guests drive home drunk. You might wonder how you can be held liable once a guest leaves your home and gets into an accident. The answer is what is known as Social Host Liability.
You may be familiar with the Dram shop laws which can hold commercial establishments responsible for guests who leave intoxicated and are subsequently involved in a drunk driving incident. The social host liability is a variation of that law but is directed towards non-commercial establishments, parties or events held at a persons home. Although the law can vary from state to state, it basically holds the host of a party responsible if a guest is involved in an accident that results in the injury or death of that guest or a third party.
Although your guest ultimately makes the choice to drive intoxicated, you as the host can be held liable if a third party can prove certain factors. These factors are:
1. The host knowingly provided alcohol to a guest that he or she knew or should have known was already intoxicated
2. The host allowed that person to drive home after serving alcohol.
Short of having an alcohol free event, there are ways to protect yourself from potential liable due to an intoxicated guest.
Ask for your guests keys along with their coats as they arrive. Let everyone know your commitment to not allowing anyone to drink and drive. This way you can be sure that if a group arrived together, the person who hasn’t been drinking receives the key. If the intoxicated guest arrived on his or her own, let them sleep it off at your home before giving them the keys to drive.
Call a taxi for guests who may have had to much to drink or offer your service as a designated driver. You can always return the keys the next day.
Supply plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks as an alternative to alcohol.
Provide plenty of lively activities to take the emphasis off drinking.
In the unfortunate event of a guest getting in an auto accident due to intoxication, check your insurance, a personal umbrella policy may help to cover damages if a third party decides you have a part of the blame.
Social host liability varies greatly from state to state, so it is important to know what the law is in your home state. However, the best action that a host can do is plan a safe party environment and take an interest in the sobriety of your guests during your party and particularly as they leave your event.