Hosting a Party? You May Be Liable
Your friends are coming over to your house. You’ve tidied up the living room and kitchen. The backyard is lit. You’re ready to fire up the grill. As the night goes on, you’ve noticed a few spills on your hardwood floor. You’re a bit busy, so you wait to clean up the puddle. Then you hear a loud thud. One of your friends slips, falls, and hits the ground hard. While initially she seems fine, it quickly becomes apparent she’s broken her wrist. Unfortunately, you might be legally responsible. If you’re hosting a party on your property, here’s what you need to know about liability.
It sounds a bit far-fetched, right? How is it that you’re responsible for someone else falling down? Accidents like this, and several others, fall under an umbrella term known as premises liability. Legally, you’re required to ensure that you’ve exercised reasonable care to make sure no one is exposed to dangerous situations on your property. This means you need to maintain your home in such a manner that it isn’t considered unsafe for guests.
You have a few ways to protect yourself from premises liability. In the colder months, make sure that your driveway and walkways are free of snow and ice. This reduces the chances of someone slipping and falling on your property. Clean up any spills as you see them happen. If your yard has any unsafe areas, rope them off or set up conspicuous signs alerting your guests to the dangers.
If the dangers are extremely apparent, you’re typically not legally liable but it’s best to take preventive steps just in case. After all, you don’t want your friends to show up in cute casual dresses and leave in plaster casts.
Social Host Liability
The other kind of liability you often face when you have guests over is known as social host liability. If you serve alcohol at your party, you may be responsible for what your guests do while intoxicated. If they drink and drive, if they injury themselves or others, or if they damage property, you could be on the line. While social host liability claims are fairly rare, they do happen and are a hassle to combat.
These claims are very dependent on fact. A claimant needs evidence that you knew a guest was intoxicated. This means proving you know how much a guest drank during a gathering at your house, that you know if they drank before arriving on your property, or that you saw visible signs of their intoxication, such as slurred speech or difficulty walking. If a guest drinks and drives, evidence that you know they intended to drive or had communicated to you about driving at any point in the evening may come into play.
While you’re not always able (or willing) to host a dry party, it’s perhaps the easiest way to prevent yourself from any social host liability. If that isn’t an option, limit the amount your guests drink and request that nobody drives after they’ve been drinking. Either offer up guest rooms or a couch as sleeping space or offer to split the cost of a cab or rideshare.
Insurance and Legal Representation
If you’re concerned about accidents happening on your property or you have a friend that gets a bit reckless after they’ve had a few drinks, consider umbrella insurance. This is an add-on to homeowners insurance that provides added liability benefits. Depending on the policy, it protects from most injuries and alcohol-related damages caused by a social gathering at your house. Talk to an insurance broker about your options when it comes to umbrella policies.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of the claim, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer in Toronto or where you live. Legal expertise is a major asset when it comes to navigating a claim defense. If the injured party is serious about pursuing their claim, you won’t be able to defend against it on your own. A lawyer will also help you assess further preventive measures to ensure you don’t face another lawsuit any time soon.
Keeping It Safe
While hosting a party is meant to be fun above all else, it also needs to be safe not only for yourself, but your guests as well. You have a legal obligation to take the necessary steps towards injury-proofing your property. Whether it’s through legal representation or a higher insurance policy, once you’ve done all you can to make sure your home is a safe space for a gathering, you can rest assured.