Skip to content

You Can Be Liable If Your Guests Have Too Much Holiday Cheer


The Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin remind you to protect yourself and your company

MADISON, Wisconsin (December 4, 2014) – The holiday season is incredibly busy with gifts to buy, homes to decorate and parties to plan. In Wisconsin, those parties include plenty of fun, food, and beverages.

And while no one wants to think the worst during the holidays, the statistics are sobering. In 2012, 33,579 people were arrested for Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), including 385 people under the age of 18. According to the Wisconsin DOT, alcohol-related crashes killed 223 people and injured nearly 3,000 in 2012

In addition, approximately, 36 percent of all fatal traffic crashes and 33 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes in Wisconsin in 2012 were alcohol-related.

“As a party host, you are responsible for your guests’ behavior,” says Ron Von Haden, CIC, Executive Vice President of the Professional Insurance Agents of Wisconsin (PIAW). “Before your next party, review your homeowners or renters insurance with your professional independent agent to ensure that you are properly covered for property damage and personal injury liability.

“Be sure your policy doesn’t exclude incidents that arise from serving alcohol. Depending on your situation, you might also consider adding a personal liability umbrella policy for additional coverage. Your professional independent agent can help you determine whether or not this is necessary.”

If you choose to serve alcohol at your party, stay sober yourself so that you are aware of your guests’ condition. Don’t serve guests if they’ve had too much to drink and make sure everyone has a designated driver. Be sure to have food to munch on and stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the end of the party.

“Companies can also be held liable when they host parties where alcohol is served,” says Von Haden. “To limit their liability at events where alcohol is served, companies should:

Monitor Alcohol Consumption – Don’t have an unsupervised bar. Hire professional bartenders and issue a small quantity of drink tickets for each guest. After that, make guests pay for their drinks. Offer a wide selection of non-alcoholic drinks. Be sure there is food to munch on. Close the bar at least an hour before the event ends.

Determine Whether Guests Are Intoxicated – Make reasonable assumptions about whether a guest is impaired based on how many drinks he/she’s had.

Prevent Intoxicated Guests from Driving – Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving. Have a list of “designated drivers” you can call for each employee if they have had too much or supply vans or cabs to give guests a ride home.

As a final tip, remind everyone to wear their seatbelts on the way home. It has been proven over and over again that seatbelts save lives.

For more information or to locate a PIA member near you, look for the PIA logo or go to

Scroll To Top