Holiday Parties: Protect Your Family Assets

The holiday party season is just around the corner. If you are considering hosting a party for friends and family this year, whether at home or in a restaurant or rented facility, you want to be sure the event is not ruined by an insurance or liability issue – and there are plenty of issues to consider. Liquor Liability

Even though Texas courts have not imposed a duty on social hosts similar to the liability imposed on bars and restaurants for serving alcohol to intoxicated patrons, you could be held liable under Texas law if you serve or provide an alcoholic beverage to a minor. But the legal details are not the only thing you should be concerned about. You don’t want to be responsible for an alcohol-related accident involving one of your guests. Serving alcohol in a responsible way keeps you out of the court house – and it’s the right thing to do. Here are a few tips to keep your party-goers and others safe from the effects of over-imbibing:

• Be careful who you invite. If you invite good friends who are mature social drinkers, you shouldn't have a problem throwing a safe and fun party. If you invite strangers or people who are not responsible around alcohol, you are opening the door for trouble.

• If you hire a bartender, make sure he or she has participated in a seller certification course for certification by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

• Don’t force drinks on your guests or rush to refill their glasses right away.

• Always serve food and have non-alcoholic drinks available for guests. Have jiggers or self-measuring, one-ounce bottle spouts at the bar to measure alcohol for mixed drinks. Guessing the amount of alcohol for drinks can lead to excessive drinking.

• Stop serving alcohol before the party is over, but continue serving non-alcoholic drinks and food.

• DON'T LET PEOPLE DRINK AND DRIVE. Car pooling and cabs can save lives. It's the responsibility of everyone (especially the host of the party) to stop drinkers from driving. If necessary, take away the car keys and invite guests to spend the night.

Rented Facility

If you plan to rent a facility for your party, such as a community recreation hall or country club, you may unknowingly assume responsibility for damage to the facility. Take a look at this article to see how to mitigate this exposure: Be Careful on Vacations, Hosting a Party or Renting a Vacation Home.

Valet Parking

If you want to impress your guests (or lack adequate parking space at the party venue), you may consider hiring people (like neighborhood teenagers) to help park the guests’ cars. Doing so creates a number of potential liability exposures, some of which are very complicated issues as far as your personal insurance policies are concerned. You may be liable for injury or damage caused by the parking activities, including damage to the car being parked, as well as injury to the people hired to do the parking. Your personal auto and homeowners policies do not provide coverage for some of these exposures. Our best advice if you want or need to furnish valet parking at your party is this: Hire a professional valet parking service and ask them to furnish evidence that they have insurance (called a “certificate of insurance”), including coverage for damage to the guests’ vehicles. Your SwingleCollins agent can help you evaluate the certificate to be sure it provides the needed coverage.

Limits of Liability

When you are in charge of a large group of people, such as at a hosted party, there is a chance that something will go wrong in a big way. If people are injured or property is damaged, you may be on the hook financially. That’s why it’s a good idea to be sure you have high limits on liability insurance on your personal policies. An umbrella liability policy can provide those limits, as well as fill some gaps in your coverage. Let your SwingleCollins agent help you find the right umbrella policy for your family.

Holiday parties are fun and help bring family and friends close. It takes time to plan a successful party. Use a little of that time to talk to your SwingleCollins agent about your plans and let him or her address any insurance issues that may arise before, during or after the party.