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December 05, 2023

Bartender Insurance for Parties

The bar is often the life of the party – but if anything goes wrong, bartenders could be accused of overserving. In many states, businesses and bartenders that serve alcohol can be held financially responsible for third-party bodily injury and property damage claims. Protect your operation with bartender insurance for parties.

State Dram Shop Laws

According to Investopedia, dram shop laws were introduced in the 18th century to hold businesses liable for serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated people who later go on to cause death, injury, or property damage to other people. Some states also allow first-party claims if the person served injures him or herself, especially if the person is a minor.

Since states establish their own dram shop laws, the details can vary. For example:

  • In Oregon, Sections 471.565 and 471.567 establish liability for serving alcohol to a patron who is visibly intoxicated or underage.
  • In California, Section 25602.1 of the Business and Professions Code establishes liability for injuries caused when a patron was obviously intoxicated and under age 21 at the time of the sale. In addition, liability may exist under common law duties of care regardless of the patron’s age.

These are just a couple of the relevant laws. Review your state laws for a complete list of regulations.

Dram Shop Lawsuits Are Common

When intoxicated individuals cause car crashes or fights, lawsuits are common. For example:

  • A family filed a $1 million lawsuit against a Texas bar after a patron caused a fatal wrong-way crash, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The dram shop lawsuit accuses the bar of overserving the man who went on to cause the crash, who was allegedly obviously intoxicated. A family of four died in the crash.
  • A liquor store in California is facing a lawsuit after a customer struck and killed a family on Halloween, according to Yahoo Finance. The lawsuit claims that a clerk sold a bottle of liquor to a customer despite knowing that the customer was underage.
  • In 2021, a Texas jury awarded a family $301 billion in a lawsuit accusing a bar of overserving a man who went on to cause a fatal crash, according to KIII TV. The crash killed the driver (who had a blood alcohol level of .263) as well as the woman and teenager he struck. The lawsuit says the bar served the driver 11 drinks. The jury award was the largest penalty in U.S. history for this type of claim.

Liability at Private Parties

If you’re bartending at a party, you may be held liable if anyone you serve goes on to cause a car crash, get into a fight, or otherwise cause property damage or bodily injury while intoxicated.

You can reduce your exposure by doing the following:

  • Don’t serve alcohol to underage individuals. Some hosts of private parties may be fine with minors drinking, but you could still be held responsible if you serve alcohol to minors and something goes wrong. Protect your business by maintaining a strict policy of checking IDs and refusing to serve minors.
  • Don’t serve anyone who is visibly intoxicated. The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission lists 50 common signs of visible intoxication. These include slurred speech, an argumentative attitude, a flushed face, and difficulty making change. Share the full list with your team.
  • Train your employees. Employees need to learn when to stop serving people, how to handle minors who try to get around age restrictions, and what to do if intoxicated customers become belligerent or threatening.
  • Support safe rides. You could offer non-alcoholic beverages to designated drivers and help people who have been drinking find a taxi, ride-share, or other safe ride home.
  • Secure bartender insurance for parties. If a claim occurs, bartender insurance will provide important liquor liability coverage to protect your business.

Bartender Insurance for Liquor Liability Coverage

If you’re providing bartending or catering services that include alcohol, or if you’re a freelance bartender for private events, it’s smart to secure liquor liability coverage through bartender insurance.

Although a company’s general liability policies may provide coverage for some host liquor liability exposures – such as if a company provides alcohol at a company party – this coverage does not apply to businesses involved in the liquor trade. It may also not have high enough coverage limits. This is why bartender insurance is so important. If you are sued under dram shop laws, a bartender insurance policy will cover your legal costs and settlements or awards, in accordance with the terms of the policy.

Many businesses that sell alcohol carry liquor liability policies with coverage periods of one year. If you only provide bartending services occasionally, you can secure coverage for individual events.

Do you need bartender insurance for parties? Heffernan Insurance Brokers offers insurance options designed for the hospitality sector, including liquor liability insurance. Learn more.

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