How Can You Avoid Liability if You're Serving Alcohol at an Event?

Law Articles

Weddings, birthdays, and all other varieties of adult parties can be made more entertaining and memorable by adding alcohol. However, when you're the one hosting, you want to ensure that your guests don't become too intoxicated or attempt to drive after drinking to excess. What can you do to protect yourself from liability (and your friends from injury) when hosting a booze-soaked gathering? Read on to learn more about your options. 

Review your state's liquor licensing laws

If you're hosting your party at a public venue, it's likely your state has very specific regulations on when, how, and to whom alcohol may be served. You'll probably be required to obtain a temporary liquor license for your event from your state's alcohol control board or bureau. In some states, you can serve unlimited beer or wine without seeking a permit, but are required to purchase a permit when serving hard liquor.

You may also be required to have a server present who has his or her own state license and is responsible for the amount of alcohol provided to each guest. Even if your state's laws don't require a server, as host you'll likely want one; you don't want to be the one responsible for preventing over-serving or drunk driving while also trying to fulfill each of your other host duties. 

If you're hosting a private party in your home, your state's liquor laws may not apply to your gathering. You could still be responsible for any damage caused by someone who left your home after you had served him or her alcohol, so it's important to have a plan in place for preventing severe intoxication or drunk driving.

To the extent you're able or willing to do so, you may want to have a designated person take each person's keys as they are served a drink, or have taxis (or a few designated drivers) on standby near the end of the party to help ferry intoxicated guests home. 

Because the amount of time it takes a state to grant a temporary liquor license can vary widely, depending on the season, you'll want to look into your state's laws as soon as possible to ensure your permit is granted well before your party takes place. Serving alcohol in violation of liquor licensing laws can bring with it steep fees and court costs, and the liability resulting from a drunk driving crash stemming from alcohol imbibed at your party can be much more costly.

Purchase an umbrella insurance policy

If you're hosting a once-in-a-lifetime event, you may be reluctant to spring for a new insurance policy only to cover this event. However, an umbrella insurance policy is a good idea for anyone who has substantial assets (or substantial earning power). This policy acts as an "umbrella" over your other insurance policies (home, auto, or professional) and can provide coverage if you're hit with a claim that exceeds your regular insurance policy's limits, or if you're sued in a personal injury lawsuit. In these situations, the plaintiff may be able to recover a judgment that will allow him or her to garnish your wages or freeze bank accounts if you don't have an insurance policy in place.

Because this insurance takes effect only when your primary insurance policies have been maxed out, it is relatively inexpensive, particularly when compared to the amount of coverage available for purchase. In the meantime, you'll be insulated from liability for just about every accident, mistake, or frivolous lawsuit that crosses your path, which can help you to forget about the "what ifs" and enjoy your own party. 


18 August 2015

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