When you plan your holiday events this year, don’t forget to consider your liability risks. Every time you welcome guests to your home, you take on some responsibility for their well-being. If a guest is injured on your property, you could be held legally liable. You may even face legal liability for what happens to guests after they leave a party you’ve hosted. Take precautions to keep your guests safe and your exposures under control.
Water and Fire
Do you have an outdoor pool or a fire pit? While both of these features are nice, they can also both result in serious property damage and bodily injury if you’re not careful.
You might not expect anyone to go swimming this time of year, but don’t assume that pool safety isn’t an issue. A child or adult might fall in. Don’t let children play in or around the pool unattended. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the installation of property barriers, covers and alarms, as well as training in CPR.
Fire pits could start a house fire or injure anyone who gets to close. To prevent problems, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends distance – keep the fire pit at least three feet from your house or anything that can burn, and watch children in the area. If you have a wood-burning fire, use a metal screen to keep sparks under control. Put out the fire before you leave and keep matches and lighters away from children.
Slips and Falls
According to the National Safety Council, approximately 9.2 million people had to be treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to falls in 2016. If a guest falls on your property or at your event, you could be sued.
Help prevent falls by eliminating hazards.
- Make sure that guests can get to your event safely. Have outside walkways cleared of snow and ice. Keep paths well-lit so guests can see where they’re stepping.
- Keep walking areas clear of tripping hazards.
- Provide a mat for guests to dry off their shoes on, and make sure there’s someone to clean up any spills promptly.
Pets and Holiday Stress
Parties can be stressful for pets. You might think that your dog is too sweet to bite anyone, but any animal will bite under the right circumstances. At a party, loud noises may frighten your pets. At the same time, guests who don’t know how to behave around animals may tease or even hurt your pets. In response, an annoyed, angry or frightened animal may bite.
Keep your pets and your guests safe by securing your pets in a separate area. Ask guests not to bring pets.
Food poisoning is a surefire way to ruin any event. To prevent food poisoning, the CDC recommends the following:
- All food-handlers should wash their hands.
- Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counters should be washed after preparing each food item.
- Raw meat should be kept separate from other food items.
- A food thermometer should be used to ensure that food is heated properly.
- When serving food, hot food should be kept at 140°F or warmer and cold food should be kept at 40°F or colder.
- Perishable food should be discarded after two hours at room temperature.
Alcohol and Host Liability
Depending on your state’s laws, you could be named in a lawsuit if one of your guests gets into a drunk driving accident after your party. Keep your guests safe and avoid legal liability by being a responsible host.
- Provide nonalcoholic beverage choices.
- Don’t serve alcohol to minors.
- Don’t continue to serve anyone who is visibly intoxicated.
- Help your guests arrange for sober rides home.
Be sure to review your homeowners insurance policy limits regularly. If you haven’t already done so, ask your BNC Insurance agent about adding an umbrella policy as an added layer of protection. This is especially important if you entertain frequently. Please celebrate safely with these tips in mind!