We’ve had a few calls recently with questions about hosting parties and the liability ramifications. My wife Amy and I are in the midst of planning our high school senior’s graduation party in our own home. That means summer pool parties, cookouts and picnics are right around the corner. I thought we could discuss some details on this topic.
First, there’s premises liability. You have two different coverages that apply to an injury that may happen on your property. The first one is Medical Pay. This coverage is triggered by an injury which occurs on your property. Here’s some typical Med Pay policy language:
“We will pay the necessary medical expenses that are incurred or medically ascertained within three years from the date of an accident causing bodily injury.”
- To a person on the insured location with the permission of an insured; or”
It goes on to talk about other triggers off premise but those do not apply to our discussion. The second coverage is liability. The carrier would pay an expense for which you would become legally liable. The incident could be anything, but legal liability triggers the coverage.
On a typical policy, Medical Pay coverage ranges from $1-5K and liability from $100-$500K. If you have an umbrella for $1,000,000 that would apply as well. The Medical Pay is intentionally set very low because it is only premises based.
For example, take these two separate scenarios to help understand the difference in coverages: Let’s say you have a New Year’s Eve party at your home. It has been cold, windy and snowy all night. You toast to the new year and as your guests are leaving, someone slips on your front walk and breaks their arm. There would be no legal liability because of the constant snow, but it happened on your property, so the Med Pay would apply. In a second scenario, it has been snowing on and off since Christmas and you didn’t feel like shoveling. Your guest slips on the ice that has built up since Christmas and breaks an arm. Here we have a Medical Pay claim, but a potential liability claim as well.
That is just an overview of the difference between medical pay and liability in a homeowners policy and how each might apply to you.
Another important piece to note is if there is alcohol at a party. Wisconsin has a very powerful Tavern League and the host liquor liability laws are some of the most generous in the country (SEE THE DISCLAIMER BELOW). Here are some generalizations:
In Wisconsin, adults of legal drinking age are responsible for themselves and the homeowner would have no liability for a third-party injury. However, the largest risk would be someone who willfully provided alcohol to a minor, left the party, and created a third-party liability (typically a car accident). With graduation parties approaching, keep a close watch on the situation. If you would like to know more, here’s a great overview on the topic from the State Bar of Wisconsin. Additionally, you can always give us a call and we can help you find answers to your questions.
Can’t wait until Summer! Congrats to those with graduating high school and college seniors.
Thanks again for allowing us to protect you and your family.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney and these are just generalizations that apply to hosted parties.