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Social Host Liability Insurance: What Party Planners Should Know

By Teri Dormer

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When you’re hosting a party, you’re responsible for more than making sure your guests have a good time. In some cases, you can be legally responsible for the things that happen under your roof. 

If you’re not familiar with social host liability laws in your state, you might want to brush up before you start sending out invitations. Even if you can’t be entirely sure what’s happening in every room of your home, if someone were to get hurt under your roof, the laws in your state could consider you liable.

Your standard renters or homeowners insurance policy might not cover the expense. Let’s take a closer look at how social host liability insurance works.

How Social Host Laws Work 

Every state has different social host laws, but the basic parameters are largely the same: if someone at a party you’re hosting and hurts themselves or someone else (accidentally or on purpose), you could be held liable for the damages.

If you’re serving alcohol in your home or at a party you’re hosting, you could be held to similar laws that apply to bars and restaurants, which hold them responsible for patrons who become inebriated on their premises.

It’s important to note that not all states have social host laws, and the exact legislation varies from region to region. It’s recommended that you research your own state laws before hosting a party where alcohol will be served, so you know exactly what you’re responsible for as the host. 

In most cases, social host laws apply exclusively to underage guests who may have access to alcohol at a party you’re hosting, regardless of where the party is being held. In all states, the legal drinking age is 21. If there are minors present at a party you’re hosting, you could be sued if that person consumes alcohol at your party, leaves, and hurts themselves or someone else. 

Do You Have Social Host Liability Coverage?

There are two different types of lawsuits you could be charged with as a result of underage drinking at a party you’re hosting: 

  • First-party social host liability situations: If an underage guest at your party consumes alcohol and leaves the party and hurts themselves, this would be a first-party social host liability case. 
  • Third-party social host liability situations: If an underage guest at your party consumes alcohol and then hurts someone else or causes damage after leaving, this would be a third party social host liability case. 

In either situation, your insurance coverage may not cover all or any of the damages from these cases. Homeowners and renters insurance coverage includes liability protection if someone levies legal action against you, but doesn’t include criminal acts. Standard liability coverage does not apply to cases where you have knowingly supplied a minor with alcohol. 

Respecting Social Host Liability Insurance

If you regularly host parties, you may want to inquire with your insurance provider about adding on liquor liability coverage or special event insurance. 

Even with added coverage, it’s important to be mindful of who you’re hosting at your parties and being diligent to ensure minors don’t have access to alcohol. The legal damages may be nothing compared to the long-term or permanent damage someone could cause if they’re drinking underage.

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