It can be fun to host a holiday party for friends and family members. Whether you're creating Yuletide cheer or bringing in the New Year, it is incredibly satisfying to open up your home, show off your culinary skills and keep everyone's glass full during the course of a festive evening. But, before you start your guest list, keep in mind that there is a little something called Social Host Liability.

Social Host Liability: You Are Responsible for Your Guests

You may smile and shake your head when Uncle Felix has a little too much to drink every year and starts to do his "best" Lucille Ball impressions. However, if Uncle Felix gets a little overzealous and falls down the stairs, as the homeowner, you will be legally responsible for the injuries that he may incur. Or, even worse, what if Uncle Felix stumbles out the door, jumps in his Eldorado and proceeds to cause a 5 car pileup down the road? Such an event would be both mentally and financially host liability

If you're planning to entertain guests this season, you will need to take measures to protect them, yourself and (potentially) everyone else.

  • Either don't serve alcohol or limit alcohol.
    According to statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), 37% of Christmas highway deaths are alcohol-related, and a whopping 58% of the fatalities that occur on the roads on New Year's Eve are caused by drunk drivers.

    If you do provide alcohol for your guests, make sure that you're also serving food and that you have plenty of non-alcoholic options available. Don't be shy about asking everyone to entrust you with their car keys, and only give keys back to sober drivers. For those who have had too much to drink, arrange rides, make them wait or allow them to stay overnight. And keep a close eye on all minors, making absolutely sure that none of them are allowed to drink in your home.

  • Take the time to "people-proof" your house.
    Obviously, if you have invited guests who will be bringing small children, you should at least temporarily remove all items that may be hazardous to little ones. However, you should remember that even completely sober adults can injure themselves through a combination of carelessness and bad luck. So, create the safest environment possible by fixing any potential tripping hazards such as broken stairs or loose handrails. You should also put double-stick tape under any throw rugs and make sure that all extension cords are out of the way of walkways.

    Has the weather been inclement? Check your porch and sidewalks to ensure that they are cleared of ice and snow. And if you have pets, it may be wise to keep them restrained. Even the most well behaved animals may become nervous with so many strangers around, and you don't want to be responsible for guests getting scratched or bitten.

  • Review your homeowner's insurance.
    Even if you have taken every imaginable precaution, accidents can, unfortunately, still happen. The standard minimums for liability coverage in most policies are $100,000 to $300,000, and this may not be enough to cover the costs associated with a serious injury. If you are planning to host a major event in your home, it may be helpful to review your current policy and consider upgrading your liability coverage if what you have doesn't seem sufficient.

Once you have taken into account all of the risks that are involved with party hosting, you may decide to scale down your gathering by only inviting very close friends and immediate family members. If, however, you still want to entertain a large group, please plan well in advance to keep your party incident and accident free.

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