Summer is officially here and so begins the array of parties, events and weekend getaways. There’s little more satisfying than welcoming the weekend by spending time with friends and family, whether you’re hosting a party or having guests over at your summer cottage.
Amidst the fun and frenzy of the busy summer months, people rarely stop to think about the potential safety, and legal, circumstances that can arise from a lack of proper preparation.
Before you send out your next RSVP, double-check that you’re opening up your home without opening up yourself to legal liability.
You probably know that under Canadian law, a homeowner is expected to exercise a reasonable standard of care. What you may not know is that without the proper proactive preparation to exercise this standard, you’re partially responsible for any personal injury that happens on your property, however minor or serious. This checklist will help you keep guests safe and keep yourself safe from a personal injury claim:
Alcohol can always complicate a situation. In fact, you can be liable for an alcohol-related accident whether or not it happens on your property. For example, when an intoxicated guest is in a car accident on the drive home after drinking too much at your party.
Keep these tips in mind when serving alcohol at your get-together:
- If guests seem to be drinking too much, cut them off. Stop serving them and ask trusted guests to help with the situation.
- Never let minors drink. You can be charged for a crime for letting a minor consume alcohol at your house, and if the minor gets hurt or hurts someone else, you could be liable for the resulting injuries or property damage.
- If you suspect a guest has had too much to drink, offer them a place to spend the night and consider taking their car keys to ensure they don’t get behind the wheel.
For more information explain what it means to be a social host and the responsibilities that come with it, click here.
Prepare your property:
As an occupier of the property (whether or not you’re present at the party!) you’re responsible for the safety of surroundings. You will be especially liable if you know about a certain hazard that isn’t obvious and you do nothing to fix the issue. Here’s what you need to do:
- Ensure any structural problems (i.e. broken steps) are properly fixed before you host guests. If they can’t be fixed, ensure the area is properly roped off so your guests don’t get near the danger.
- Remove any potentially dangerous items. An old upside down canoe or a broken down swing set are good examples of ‘innocent’ items that can pose serious threat to young children.
- Consider restraining your pets. You could be liable if your pet bites, scratches or somehow injures one of your guests.
- Have a pool or property by the water? Make sure the entrance area is properly fenced off or that you have signage describing the danger. For example, if your property is on low-water level and you’re hosting guests or renting it out, include a sign by the dock that days “Low water-Do not jump”. Proper warning like this could save you from potential personal injury liability in the case of an accident.
Your homeowner’s insurance could be your best protection in case of personal injury at your party. It’s your job to make sure you are getting the most out of your coverage:
- Ensure that your insurance is up- to-date.
- Inquire into whether your policy limits are enough to cover an accident or injury. For example. If an injured guest has $75,000 in in medical bills but your policy only covers $50,000 in coverage, you could be looking at paying $25,000 out of your pocket.
- Keep in mind that your policy likely does not cover ‘intentional’ acts resulting in injury. For example, if you or someone push a guest into the pool playfully, your policy may not cover that resulting injury.
- Call your insurance company as soon as possible if a guest has been hurt on your property.
Summer is meant to be enjoyed. With a little planning and foresight, you can make sure that opening your home, or cottage, to guests will result in a safe and fun time, while saving yourself the cost and headache that can come with facing a lawsuit.