Avoid Social Host Liability and Keep Drivers Safe

By Insurance.com Posted : 12/01/2006

Did you know that at least 50 percent of all holiday traffic fatalities are alcohol related? In fact, that is why December is designated National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. Definitely a sobering thought if you are hosting or attending a holiday party this year!

Another thought that just might have you rethinking your company's "open bar" policy is that if an employee or guest leaves your party drunk and gets into an accident, your company could be liable - even if that person may have went to another party or to a bar after leaving your party. If you don't think your company can be found liable - think again! Most states have some form of "social host" laws in place, specifically targeting employer-hosted events.

Why so much focus on company hosted parties? Many courts feel that employees have a greater obligation to attend company gatherings, as opposed to social gatherings hosted by friends or family members. Kind of makes you reconsider having that "attendance mandatory" notice on your holiday invitations.

Company Sponsored Parties
Planning your company's holiday party this year? If so, consider incorporating some, or all of these holiday party suggestions into your company's festivities.

  • Host your party at a local hotel and arrange for discounted or complimentary rooms so employees won't have to drive home impaired.
  • Hire a cab company or limousine service to provide complimentary rides for employees that are too drunk to drive home.
  • Check employees' coats and keys at the door. This will help you regulate who is too drunk to drive and who is able to provide rides home.
  • Hire a bartender to serve the drinks, rather then letting employees and guests serve themselves.
  • Provide plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and juices.
  • Designate a person to keep an eye on everyone and the amount of alcohol they are consuming.
  • Discourage guests from drinking excessively and stop serving anyone who appears intoxicated.
  • Include a disclosure on your holiday invitations that notes your company's position on drinking and driving and that the company supports and practices the designated driving law.
  • Pass out designated driver stickers to all attendees participating in the program.
  • Close the bar 90 minutes before the party has ended.
  • Serve a variety of nutritious foods to help balance and absorb any alcohol guests may have consumed.

Hosting a Holiday Party
Planning a family gathering or holiday party at your house? Then you too could be potentially liable for any guests that leave your home drunk. If your guests get into an accident because they had too much to drink at your party, the finger could be pointed at you. The best solution is to have a dry party filled with holiday foods, games, prizes, and non-alcoholic beverages. However, if you still want to have a holiday party with alcoholic beverages, then we suggest practicing the following tips.

  • Ask friends to designate a driver before the party begins.
  • Collect everyone's coats and keys as they arrive.
  • Encourage lively conversations and group activities that focus on fun and not alcohol.
  • Make food and non-alcoholic drinks easily available.
  • Provide plenty of food so the focus is not solely on alcohol.
  • Never serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.
  • If someone has had too much to drink, offer to have them spend the night or call a cab - don't let them drive home drunk.

Drinking and Driving Myths
Think you know everything there is to know about drinking and driving - think again!

  1. Coffee or a cold shower will sober you up.
    False: Only time can sober you up.

  2. If you avoid liquor and stay with beer and wine you will be fine.
    False: A 12 oz. beer and a 5 oz glass of wine have as much alcohol as a 1.5 oz glass of whisky.

  3. As long as you roll down the windows and turn up the radio, you will be okay to drive home.
    False: Neither of these will help enhance your alertness, motor skills or judgment.

  4. By driving slow, you will avoid getting into an accident.
    False: Driving too slow could potentially cause an accident and besides, driving under the influence is never a good idea at any speed.

A DUI could do more than potentially harm innocent people; it could also affect your auto insurance coverage. While insurance companies are not allowed to deny coverage to policyholders because of race, religion, residence, age or occupation - they are allowed to cancel your policy for having your driver's license suspended or being convicted of a crime, such as a DUI. That is something to think about before you pick up that next drink at a holiday party!

These holiday party safety tips were provided by Insurance.com, the nation's largest online auto insurance agency. If you are in the market for auto insurance or are thinking about switching auto insurance carriers, visit Insurance.com's auto insurance comparison application. Here, you will be able to evaluate multiple rates from best-in-class insurance providers, helping you save time and money on your auto insurance.

Insurance.com wishes you and your family a safe and secure holiday driving season.

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