insurance

Hosting a party? Insurance can protect you

Highlights
  • Whenever you plan an event, you assume responsibility for its outcome.
  • Event liability insurance could protect you if your guests misbehave.
  • Include all the relevant perils in the policy. Some cover cold feet.

You're planning a wedding and you have to come up with several expensive deposits, even though the ceremony is still two years away.

What if the hall goes out of business? Or burns down? Or your daughter changes her mind and ditches the hubby-to-be? Do you just lose all that money?

Not if you buy event liability insurance, a relatively inexpensive guarantee that you'll get your deposits back as long as the reason you've called off the event is on the list of acceptable excuses, including -- with some policies -- cold feet.

Protection for misbehaving guests

Event liability insurance is also likely to protect you if the groomsmen get in a fight in the back of the hall and start throwing the china, says Janet Ruiz, spokeswoman for Fireman's Fund. If the fight moves outside to the parking lot and somebody gets hurt and you get sued, the policy will pay for an attorney and any damages assessed you, whether the result of the suit or personal claims by guests or the hall.

If you're having a holiday party in your backyard or someplace like the VFW or the neighborhood clubhouse where you're bringing the booze and your brother-in-law is serving it -- or you've hired a freelance bartender -- then you need liquor liability insurance or a liquor liability rider on the event insurance, says Melissa Maybury, manager at HCC Specialty Underwriters. That way, if one of the guests gets in an accident on the way home and sues you, saying the alcohol you served caused the accident, the insurance will pay to defend you and, to the extent of the policy, cover any damages.

In some states, serving kids alcohol is a criminal offense. If the kids sneak a few beers and then do something stupid, you could be in big trouble. "Even if kids go through the trash and get semi-empty glasses, you might be held responsible and you'd probably have to defend and that requires a lawyer in today's litigious world," says Sandra B. Haley, vice president for underwriting at Hospitality Mutual Insurance Co.

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If you think any of these incidents are unlikely to happen at your event, think again. "You can't control what your guests do or don't do or cause to happen," says Jeff Kleid, CEO of Elite Risk Insurance Solutions.

Kleid says one of his most expensive claims ever came from a tipped-over votive candle in a holder that set a camera on fire. The blaze quickly engulfed the room and at least one person who tried to put out the flames was badly burned.

Protection for the venue

Many people first encounter the need for event liability insurance when they sign a contract at a big hotel or a large catering hall. The contract will require that the signers provide $1 million, or sometimes $2 million, in liability coverage and make the venue a named insured on the policy, meaning that if claims are made against either the hall or the renter, both are covered.

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