- Homeowners may be responsible for all sorts of injuries to their guests
- You can protect yourself and your guests with a little planning
- Serving alcohol, the safety condition of your property, and your insurance coverage are some things to think about
Having people over to your house for a party or celebration? If so, you need to know how to protect yourself and your guests when hosting a party. There are many ways you may be held responsible if someone gets hurt on your property or hurts someone else after leaving the party.
This checklist can help you make your party fun and safe for everyone.
Alcohol is often part of a celebration, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, it can cause serious problems for a homeowner. Depending on the laws in your state, you may be responsible for injuries a guest suffers as a result of your serving or allowing alcohol at your party. You may also be responsible if your guest hurts someone else. And you may be liable whether or not the injury or accident happens on your property, such as when a guest gets hurt driving home. So:
- Make sure your guests don't drink too much. If they do, cut them off. Stop serving them immediately and ask your other guests to help
- If a guest has had too much to drink, call him a cab, drive him home or ask a sober guest to, or offer him a place to spend the night. Take his car keys if necessary
- Don't let minors drink. In most states, you may be charged with a crime, and if the minor gets hurt or hurts someone else, you may be liable for the injuries and have to pay for medical bills, property damages and other damages
- If you don't allow alcohol at a party - like a high school graduation party - and you suspect a guest is drinking, put a stop to it immediately and make sure the guest stays at your house or gets home safely
As a property owner, you're responsible for the safety of your guests when it comes to dangerous conditions on your property. This is especially true if you know about the danger, the danger isn't obvious to the guests, and you do nothing to fix the problem. Here's what you need to do:
- If there are structural problems - such as broken or crumbling steps or rotten deck boards - fix them before the party, or at the very least, rope off the area so guests can't get near the problem
- Remove any dangerous items on the property. An old refrigerator that could trap a child or a rusty, broken down swing set are good examples
- Consider tying up the dog. You may be liable if your pet bites, scratches or otherwise injures a guest
- Have a pool? If it's not being used at the party, make sure the fence (many state laws require a fence around pools) is in good condition and the gate is locked. If the law doesn't require a fence, make sure parents know they need to watch their children, or have an adult supervise the area
- If the pool is being used at the party, again make sure the parents watch their children or that an adult is supervising the pool. All guests should be told they're expected to act responsibly in and near the pool. The pool should be clean and sanitary, too. A guest who becomes ill because of contaminated pool water may sue you
- Campfires and bon fires need to watched carefully. You need to make sure children and other guests can't get too close. A barrier or an adult supervisor should be used. You should also have a garden hose standing by in case the fire gets out of control
You property or homeowner's insurance may be your best protection in case someone is hurt during your party. But for that happen, you need to make sure:
- Your insurance is up-to-date and in force
- The policy's limits are high enough to cover an injury. For example, if a guest is injured and has $75,000 in medical bills and other damages, but your policy only gives you $50,000 coverage, the guest may sue you for the extra $25,000
- You check to see if the policy covers "intentional" acts that cause injuries. Many insurance policies exclude coverage for injuries intentionally caused by you or a guest. So, if a guest is hurt because you push him into the pool or hit him during a disagreement or fight, your policy may not cover the guest's injury
- Nothing illegal is happening on your property. For instance, if a guest is injured because of underage drinking or the use of illegal drugs, your insurance may not cover the injury
- Call your agent as soon as possible if a guest is hurt
Respect Your Neighbors
If you're like most of us and you have neighbors, be courteous. It can save you some aggravation and money:
- Keep the music and other activities at a reasonable level. Loud music and a lot of screaming may prompt a neighbor to call the police. You could get a ticket for disturbing the peace
- Some communities have a "quiet hour" when loud activities are supposed to end. If you don't follow that law, the police may be called and you may get a ticket. Your party may be shut down, too
- Remind your guests not to block neighbors' driveways or drive or park on their lawns. Their cars may get towed, and a neighbor may ask you to pay for the damages to his lawn
With a little planning, everyone will have a good time at your party and they'll be safe during and afterward. As a bonus, you may save yourself the financial costs and headaches that come with being sued.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can I be liable if someone "crashes" my party and hurts one of my guests? Can the crasher sue me if I use force to remove him from property?
- A teenager was sneaking drinks at a graduation party we were holding for our son. He was injured in a car accident after the party, and his parents say they're suing us. Do they have a case?
- My son was hurt at a pool party at our house when another guest pushed him into the pool. Are the guest's parents liable for my son's injury?