Summer Get-Togethers: How Exposed Are Your Clients to These 3 Risks?

After two years of pandemic-related restrictions, we are all long overdue for some serious fun this summer. But before the temperature warms up and prior to people start hosting family reunions, graduation parties, weddings and neighborhood get-togethers, consider reaching out to your policyholders to remind them that the following three exposures could expose them to a liability claim situation.

Tipsy guests

Hosting a gathering and serving alcohol comes with certain risks. In states where social liability laws exist, a homeowner can be held financially liable for injuries to a third party caused by an intoxicated guest who leaves his or her home. In addition, the injured third party may also file a civil claim against the host. In states that don’t enforce this type of social host liability law, a personal injury case can be filed against the homeowner.

A common question among homeowners is whether an intoxicated guest can sue the host if he or she gets in an accident after leaving the party. According to the legal website NOLO, that answer is almost always no. Even in states with more relaxed social host laws, the liability typically only extends to third parties who are injured due to the guest’s actions. The only time a guest who is injured in an alcohol-related accident may file a lawsuit against the homeowner is when a minor is injured — even if the minor caused the accident.

Tips to pass on to your homeowner clients

· When serving alcohol, also serve food.
· Provide a wide variety of nonalcoholic beverage options.
· Stop serving alcohol at least two hours prior to the end of the party.
· Consider a social host liquor liability insurance policy.
· Collect the keys of those who plan to drink.
· Encourage ridesharing.
· Offer a place to stay overnight after the party ends, such as a spare bedroom, couch or inflatable mattress.
· Insist that guests have a designated driver who abstains from drinking alcohol during the party.
· Hire a professional bartender who can stop serving visibly intoxicated individuals or alert the homeowner to potential issues. 

Unpredictable pets

Loud noises and strangers can put a family pet on the defense. From a nippy 3-pound Chihuahua to an 80-pound Rottweiler that jumps to an angry cat that doesn’t want to be picked up, homeowners need to ensure that family pets are safe and secure during an event. When put in a new social environment where people are eating and children are running around, even the most well-behaved pet can demonstrate out-of-the-ordinary behaviors.

Even though the liability coverage under a homeowners and renters insurance policy will typically cover liability legal expenses in the event of an injury by a pet, the amount covered only goes as far as the policy’s limit. Should a claim exceed that amount, the homeowner will be responsible for all damages. When talking with homeowner clients, consider taking the time to discuss the importance of having adequate liability insurance on their policy, as well as the added protection that a personal liability insurance policy can bring.

Tips to pass on to your homeowner clients

· If pets must be present during an event, consider using a muzzle or leash for them.
· Request invited guests to please leave their own pets at home.
· Inform guests that there are certain rooms in the home where pets are secured for the duration of the party, and that they shouldn’t be entered.

Yard hazards

Trampolines, swimming pools, swing sets, slides and treehouses make for a fun summer party — especially for the children of guests. Add to the mix fire pits, grills and sprinkler systems and there is an increased risk for guest injuries. A quick assessment of the property prior to the party can help to eliminate the chance that someone will get hurt.

If a guest is injured at the party and the host is determined to be at fault, most homeowners insurance policies will provide some degree of legal liability protection. However, coverage will only go as high as the policy limit. Again, this can be a good time to review liability limits and umbrella insurance with your homeowner clients. 

Tips to pass on to your homeowner clients

· Rope off areas where guests could trip over sprinkler heads.
· Designate a cooking area when grilling that is away from designated play areas.
· Establish safety rules for using certain amenities such as trampolines, swimming pools and treehouses. For example, proclaim that children cannot enter a pool area unsupervised.
· Keep all walkways clear, and if the party runs after dark, make sure these areas are well lit.
· Consider purchasing a one-time special event insurance policy when hosting a party to provide a higher limit of coverage for personal liability.

Conclusion

Whether you are writing a new homeowners insurance policy or have a book of existing homeowner clients, helping your policyholders understand how their insurance works, its limits and how to mitigate potential summer party risks comes with the job. Feel free to pass these tips onto your homeowner clients or put these ideas in your agency newsletter. They’ll thank you for it and may even invite you to the party!

About FastrackCE

Do you have a busy summer planned but still need to complete your continuing education credits? Don’t worry! At FastrackCE, we make it easy for insurance professionals like you to maintain current CE licensing requirements online and at your convenience. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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