House parties for Christmas, Chanukah, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Super Bowl, Kwanzaa, and more. All for fun? Yes, all for fun. Always fun? No, not always. Risk abounds.
Risks of Holiday Parties And Premises Liability
I, The Insurance Problem Solver, want to provide some tips on what those risks are, what your liability could be, and what to do if something happens. As you may have guessed, insurance plays a huge role. All of these points apply whether you entertain in a house, in an apartment, or at your office.
Broadly I’m referring to the concept of premises liability. In essence, that means that an individual (for example, the homeowner, tenant, or another host of the party) has an obligation to ensure that the premises where the event takes place are reasonably safe for the people attending it.
Not to get “all legal” on you, but there are distinctions to be made depending on whether or not the injury occurs on a portion of the premises that you control. For example, if an individual is inside of your house and gets hurt inside by tripping over a cable laying across the floor, you may be liable. Likewise, if he or she trips on your cracked driveway, falls onto the concrete and breaks an arm, you may be liable. But, if the injury occurs on the public street in front of your house or apartment building (an area that you do not control), all other things being equal, you are probably not responsible. But remember, all claims are fact-driven, governed by local law, and, above all, I’m not giving legal advice.
Different People: Different Rules
The law recognizes 3 categories of people who may become involved with your holiday party. The importance of this is that you, the host, owe different standards of care to each of them. In turn, if they get hurt at the party and make a claim against you, they have to prove different kinds of facts and issues to recover money from you or, presumably, your insurer. I’ll assume that you have liability coverage for these kinds of incidents. If the party is at your house or apartment, the liability insurance that may be a part of your homeowner’s or renters insurance. If the party is at your office, the liability insurance would likely be a part of your commercial general liability (CGL) insurance.
The categories of people are:
• Licensees. These are people that you invite upon your property, including the guests at your party. You owe an obligation of reasonable care to them. That means that you have to take affirmative action to prevent them from getting hurt. You also have to warn them of any dangerous conditions. You could do this, for example, by putting a warning of a cracked driveway on the party invitation. In fact. I did this myself on an invitation to an upcoming party.
• Business Invitee. This could be, for example, someone who comes to your house to fix an appliance or it could be the caterer. You are safest from a claim by an invitee if you inspect for dangers and properly repair them before he or she arrives.
• Trespasser. This is someone who has no business being on your property. For example, it could be someone who crashed the party. You generally have no duty to warn, even of known dangers. However, in general, you cannot do anything to intentionally injure a trespasser.
If you have liability insurance that may apply, it is critical that you report the incident to the insurance company immediately The insurance policy may provide a toll-free phone number to report claims, or you can call the insurance agent who sold the policy to you. Either way, do it ASAP.
A representative of your insurance company will ask to take your statement about the occurrence and maybe take pictures (if applicable). He or she may request that you take other steps to help in handling the claim, such as keeping safe any physical evidence. Make sure that you deal only with your own insurance company or an independent insurance adjuster that it has hired to handle the claim.
Remember, I can’t give you legal advice, but I can help you through the insurance issues that sometimes accompany legal issues, as we have discussed here. Also remember, I am Luke Brown, The Insurance Problem Solver in Tallahassee, Florida.