You’ve spent weeks preparing for Halloween. Pumpkins are carved. Bowls of candy sit near the front door. Costumes are donned. However, is your homeowners insurance ready? Do you know the answers to the what-ifs?
- What if a child falls on your walkway and the parents sue you for medical costs? You may be held liable.
- What if your house is vandalized? Most policies cover vandalism, but do you know your deductible?
- What if your dog gets overexcited and bites a particularly litigious individual’s child? Let’s talk about an umbrella policy, which provides protections beyond your existing insurance coverages.
- What if you throw a party and an intoxicated guest crashes his or her car on the way home? You could be held responsible.
Some states have laws that hold a host responsible for any injuries or property damage done by a guest who has left a party drunk, while other states hold hosts responsible if a minor is found in possession of alcohol—so, verify your young guests are of age before you serve them an alcoholic beverage. If guests become intoxicated, it is the host’s duty to oversee their transportation arrangements.
How does this affect each state?
Connecticut. Under Connecticut’s Social Liability Law, an adult may be criminally and civilly liable for providing alcohol to a minor and fined up to $1,500, imprisoned up to 18 months, or both.
New Hampshire. Under New Hampshire’s Party Host Liability Law, a person who hosts a party where minors drink alcohol or use drugs may be charged with a misdemeanor, fined up to $2,000 and/or spend a year in jail.
New Jersey. Under New Jersey’s Social Host Liability Law, any social host providing alcohol to an intoxicated person of lawful drinking age can be held liable if said person goes on to cause an alcohol-related accident.
Also, under New Jersey State Law (2C:33-15), it is illegal for a person under 21 years of age to:
- purchase, drink, or possess an alcoholic beverage in a public place, motor vehicle, or school.
- Individuals over age 18—but under age 21—will face charges as an adult, while those under 18 will be charged with a juvenile offense.
New York. Under New York’s Social Host Liability law (often referred to as the Alcohol Purchase Age Law), a social host is liable to an injured party if the host served alcohol to a guest under the age of 21 who subsequently caused the injuries.
Vermont. Under Vermont’s Social Liability Law, social hosts who throw private parties can be held liable under the same statute that allows dram shop claims to be brought against vendors. For social hosts, the liability under the statute limits to social hosts who provide alcohol to underage guests.
Don’t get tricked
Halloween can pose other problems for property owners. Here are few tips to make sure you don’t get tricked this holiday:
- Turn on all outside lights. And, to deter vandalism leave them on all night.
- Make sure walks and pathways are clear of debris.
- If a pumpkin gets smashed on your walkway, clean it up.
- Motorists should drive slowly and with caution all evening.
If you have any questions regarding your homeowners insurance and the coverage—such as personal property, personal liability, medical payments, loss of use, dwelling, other structures—call your professional independent insurance agent who will be happy to answer them.