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2/1/2013 - III: Super Bowl parties can bring liability risk


The big game is Sunday, but it could also bring big trouble for party hosts if alcohol is served and someone gets into an accident.

On Sunday, much of the U.S. will be at parties and within earshot of a television set, as Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens commences. With so many eyes and ears glued to high-definition TVs -  as the Super Bowl is routinely the most-watched televised event each year - advertisers are expected to spend top dollar on promoting their products. For instance, during 2011's big game, leading beer maker Anheuser-Busch spent $239.1 million for 30-second commercials, according to Kantar Media.

While most Americans will be able to enjoy the game and drink responsibly, statistics show that many people get behind the wheel following Super Bowl parties when they should leave the driving to someone else.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, 30% of traffic accident fatalities involved someone who was intoxicated. And a considerable number of these highway deaths were among young men between 21 and 34 years of age - advertisers' core audience.

Worters: Serve, drink responsibly this Super Sunday
With this in mind, Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, cautions party goers to exercise restraint when attending Super Bowl parties this Sunday. Hosts should be particularly cognizant of what they're serving and who's in attendance.

"Those throwing a party where alcohol is served have both a legal and moral responsibility to make sure that their guests are capable of driving safely," said Worters. "You don't want to allow anyone who has been drinking to drive a vehicle while impaired."

She added that should someone leave the party in an inebriated state and encounter an accident, party hosts may be held legally responsible should the case wind up in court.

As a general rule, liability laws vary from state to state. While some state laws only consider commercial enterprises as being potentially culpable for drunk driving accidents, others include all social party hosts.

To ensure that party hosts are as safe as possible, III says they should take a few last-minute precautions into consideration. This includes performing some internet research about what their state law says regarding serving alcohol, considering hosting the event at a restaurant that has a liquor license and encouraging party attendants to bring a designated driver with them if they intend to drink.

Hosts may also want to review their insurance information. As a general rule, homeowner's insurance includes general liability protection of up to $300,000. Policyholders may want to consider increasing that minimum if their provider allows it.


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