This time of year is marked by many happy occasions; prom, graduation, and the beginning of summer break. Many parents will face the decision whether to host a party for their teen with the potential of having alcohol involved.

Below is a scenario of what could happen if you let your teen and/or their friends drink and drive at a party you hosted.

The Andersons throw a graduation party for their 17 year old son. They serve beer and wine, figuring that if their son and his friends are going to drink alcohol, it’s better if they do it in the Anderson home with the Andersons present. One of the teenage guests leaves the party, in their car and while driving under the influence strikes and severely injures a pedestrian.

In California, the Andersons face not only the potential for criminal charges but they face “social host liability” which holds all non-commercial party hosts accountable for the underage drinking events that occur on their property by imposing specific civil penalties.  Lets take Ventura County as an example.

In Ventura County, a person can be fined between $1,000.00 and $2,500.00 if they are 21 and older and host a party where alcohol is available to minors.  If police are called to the same location twice in one year, the fine doubles.  The parents are also charged for the cost of the city services if the fire department or other emergency personnel are called.

Survey data from Ventura County’s DUI Program reveal that not all young people who drink at home stay at home:

  • Impaired underage drivers who leave home parties drive 10 miles on average before being arrested.
  • Half of the impaired underage drivers have 1 or more passengers in their cars at the time of arrest.
  • 1 in 5 of those impaired underage drivers crashed – often sustaining injuries to themselves or others.

How can you, as the parent hosting the party, protect yourself from being liable because of the actions of impaired underage driver:

  1. Don’t buy alcohol for parties when minors will be attending; and
  2. Buy the most liability insurance you can afford.  If you have assets, it is essential to have adequate automobile, homeowner’s, and umbrella coverage.

As social host liability arises from the actions you took while at your house, the personal liability portion of your homeowner’s policy may cover a portion of the damages caused to someone else by the negligent acts of a person attending a party you hosted.  A portion of your automobile policy would help cover damages too, since the incident happened while someone was driving after leaving your party.

The findings above shed a negative light on the belief that underage drinking at home is safer than somewhere else. Depending on the setting and supervision, a party in a private home may be quite dangerous for youth and the community.

Have you checked your insurance policy?  Do you have enough insurance coverage to protect yourself?

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