Throwing a New Year’s Eve Party? I.I.I. Offers Tips for Being a Responsible Host


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NEW YORK, December 29, 2008 — If you are planning to throw a New Year’s Eve party, remember that a truly great host recruits designated drivers and takes other steps to ensure the safety of guests, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"Those throwing a party where alcohol is served have both a legal and moral responsibility to make sure that their guests are capable of getting home safely,” said Loretta Worters, vice president at the I.I.I. “You don’t want to allow anyone who has been drinking to drive home and possibly kill or injure themselves or others on the road."

Numerous states have enacted laws or have case law that hold social hosts liable if they serve liquor to people who subsequently are involved in crashes that result in injury or death. These laws also offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a method to sue the person who served the alcohol. Criminal charges may also apply in certain circumstances.

Known as Dram Shop Liability laws, they were intended originally to apply to taverns, bars, and other establishments selling and serving alcohol. The fact is, however, that "social hosts,” such as those holding a New Year’s Eve party, may have some exposure to the risk of liability for serving alcohol.

“Party hosts should consult with their insurance agent or insurance company representative about their liability insurance coverage and find out whether there are any exclusions, conditions or limitations their policy might have for this kind of risk,” advised Worters. “Appropriate liability insurance coverage is necessary. In some cases special event coverage may be available that will cover both liquor liability and other liability exposures specific to the event.”

Despite a continued overall nationwide drop in the number of fatalities resulting from alcohol-impaired crashes, nearly four in 10 (37 percent) of these types of accidents in the final two weeks of December 2006 involved drunken drivers between the ages of 21 and 24, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study released this month found.

How to Protect Yourself—and Your Assets

If you are hosting a New Year’s Eve party and plan to serve alcohol, the I.I.I. offers the following tips on how to have a safe and successful event:

  • Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive other guests home.
  • Consider hiring a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and can limit consumption by partygoers.
  • Be a responsible host. Limit your own alcohol intake so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Make non-alcoholic beverages available and always serve food. It is proven that food can help counter the effects of alcohol.
  • Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never continue to serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening and switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive home, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.
  • Encourage all your guests to wear seatbelts when they drive home. Studies show that seatbelts save lives.

For more information about insurance, go to the I.I.I. Web site.

For more information on preventing drinking and driving, go to the MADD Web site.

The I.I.I. is a nonprofit, communications organization supported by the insurance industry.

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