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Social Host Liability — What to Know Before Your Next Party

The lazy, hazy, days of summer are here, and with them come more fun social gatherings like summer cookouts and birthday parties. Hosting a party at your home can be a great way to bring friends and family together, but it doesn’t come without it’s own set of risks. At Boston Insurance, we want to make sure you’re prepared for all possibilities, which is why we’ve put together some important information about social host liability.

Did you know that if you host a party and serve alcohol, you could be held responsible for any damages caused by your guests? That’s right — you may be held responsible for injuries or damage caused by intoxicated guests, even after they leave your premises.

What if your party is not at your home?

It doesn’t matter; if you are the host or organizer of the party, you can be found responsible.

What if your party is BYOB?

You’re still not off the hook. If you allow people to consume too much alcohol on your premises, or allow them to leave while drunk, you might be found responsible for the consequences. Needless to say, if you allow minors to consume alcohol, you can be subject to criminal law and penalties, not just the negligence law.


Smart Host Tips

If you do decide to host a party in your home, here are a few things to keep in mind throughout the night:

  • The best way to protect yourself is to hire a professional bartender, and ask them for proof of insurance.
  • As a host, you should limit your own alcohol intake.
  • Before your friends start drinking, make sure everyone has a safe plan for going home. This can either be a designated driver, a plan to take a cab or rideshare service, or a plan to spend the night to avoid driving under the influence.
  • Make sure to serve food and non-alcoholic beverages for guests.
  • Have a cut off point before the end of the party when you plan to stop serving alcohol.
  • Keep an eye on guests. If someone who was planning on driving home seems intoxicated or too tired, make sure they do not end up driving at the end of the night.


Host Liquor Liability

Most homeowners, condo, or renters insurance policies provide liability coverage for host liquor liability at your home or another location, as long as you’re not charging for alcohol. However, there was a change in policy language on these forms that took away a part of that protection.

Specifically, most recent policies no longer cover you for the liability arising out of the use of an “auto.” We refer to this as “Motor Vehicle Liquor Liability Exclusion.” In short, if someone is injured or causes property damage while driving after leaving a party you have thrown, your homeowners, renters, or condo insurance policy will not cover these damages. There are some companies that still utilize the older form (April 1991 Edition) or have their own specific forms, but most companies have adopted the most widely used newer form version (October 2000 Edition). Bottom line: ask your agent.


If you do not have a policy that includes the use of a motor vehicle with the host liquor liability, there are a few ways to approach the coverage:

Umbrella Insurance Policies — Some umbrella policies provide coverage for this aspect of host liquor liability. They will pick up the gap in the home coverage, but the policies are not standardized and a significant portion of policies will not. If you’re not sure whether or not your umbrella insurance policy will provide this type of protection, ask your independent insurance agent.

Special Event Insurance Policies — You can also purchase special event policies for larger events, like weddings. If you have a real concern about an event, this is probably the best option. Just be sure to verify that autos are not excluded from the liquor coverage.

Coverage Buy-back — Some companies will allow you to buy back this section of coverage. Check with your independent insurance agent to find out if this option is available to you.

Replace The Policy — Obtain a policy from an agent or company that can offer the older version form edition. But, understand that the older versions may reduce other coverages that may be deemed important to you.  

Safety should always be a consideration when throwing a party, especially when alcohol is involved. If you’re unsure of how your existing insurance policies can protect you in the case of an accident, get in touch with a Boston Insurance agent today. We are happy to review existing policies or to help you set up a new policy that fits your unique needs. Visit our website at any time for more information:


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