The holiday season is usually filled with generosity and good cheer, but holiday parties do not come without risk. Though party guests tend to be loved ones and family members, unfortunately, many people will sue in the event of a mishap at the holiday party, and the host becomes liable.

Some risks may be unforeseeable, but knowing that holiday liabilities are covered by insurance can put a host’s mind at ease.  Agents can help their clients reevaluate their coverage, as well as provide tips for avoiding any holiday party mishaps.

An unexpected lawsuit would put a damper on the holiday season. Help protect your clients by passing on the following tips for avoiding holiday party risks.

Prevent Slip-and-Fall Accidents

Driveways and sidewalks can be slick with snow and ice as the weather gets colder. Additionally, many holiday parties occur at night, making the ice difficult to see.

Holiday party hosts can combat potential risks by thoroughly salting walkways in order to prevent any accidents or injuries. Sidewalks, driveways, porches, and steps are all surface susceptible to slippery conditions. Considering slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of spine and neck injuries in the U.S., hosts need to properly prepare.

However, hosts shouldn’t just be concerned about slick surfaces outside. Making sure that there is carpeting inside for guests to dry their shoes can prevent any indoor falls as well, especially if a homeowner has tile flooring.

Avoid Alcohol Liabilities

As the saying goes, the holidays are a time to “eat, drink, and be merry,” but risks involving liquor are no laughing matter.

Some states hold the hosts liable for intoxicated guests who are involved in accidents after leaving the party, which means that it could be the host’s responsibility to cover any medical bills, car repair or wrongful death claims, among others. In fact, this past July, a California court ruled in Purton v. Marriott International, Inc. that the employer was liable for the death of an employee who was in a drunk driving accident upon leaving a company party. Some states have similar laws for private events, as well.

 Hosts should encourage responsible drinking at holiday parties, and be willing to take a guest’s keys or call a cab for those who are exhibiting signs that they are unfit to drive. If their budget permits, encourage hosts to hold the event at a bar or restaurant. Because establishments must have liquor licenses in order to serve alcohol, the host will be in less danger of a liability suit.

 

Catering Catastrophes

Decadent buffets are often a holiday party staple, and approximately three-quarters of Americans outsource their food service to a caterer or restaurant during the holiday season. However, hosts still need to take special care to refrain from serving anything that appears to be undercooked or spoiled, as they would still be responsible for any food poisoning from a bad dish.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports that each year, nearly 48 million Americans develop a foodborne illness, and holiday dinners and buffets offer plenty of opportunity for contamination.  

By taking precautions, hosts can decrease their chance of risk.  Properly washing fruits and vegetables can help to kill any bacteria that may be living on the outer surface. Keeping an eye on the temperature of meat, poultry and fish will help prevent it from falling into the “danger zone” – temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees, where bacteria thrive the most. Leaving raw meat or poultry in the danger zone has the potential to produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.

Hosts should be conscious that they are not cross-contaminating dishes, and practicing proper sanitation while prepping food. For holiday buffets, hosts should consider only serving portions of the dish at a time, while keeping the rest refrigerated and replacing it as it runs out, because it is not recommended that food sits out for more than two hours. Additionally, discarding any dish that appears to show signs of being spoiled.

Whether a host decides to prepare the food herself, outsource to a caterer, or have a potluck, keeping a responsible eye on the food is necessary for reducing risk of food poisoning.

Be Wary of Theft

When planning a holiday party, cooking, decorating, and gift wrapping usually take precedent for hosts, and although identity or property theft may be the last thing on a hosts’ mind, they should consider adding these precautions to their to-do list.

Remove any items that may include account numbers from view, including checkbooks, bank statements, and tax returns, and secure them in a safe or other protected area. If hosts choose to discard of some of this paperwork, shredding is the best option.

Additionally, be aware of the areas of your home that guests will have access to. Lock up any valuable assets such as jewelry, money or heirlooms. Keeping these items in a safe place can put a hosts’ mind at ease.  If theft is a major concern, consider having the party at a different location that will not subject the hosts’ valuables to theft.