This July 4th falls on a Saturday, and millions of Americans will celebrate their country’s birthday by partying with their friends and family. Unfortunately, this also means that our nation’s Independence Day will likely lead to a spike in injuries and deaths among people who do not celebrate responsibly … and in potential law suits against the hosts of those parties.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that fireworks alone kill nearly 10 people and injured more than 11,000 others each year. And hundreds more will die from alcohol-related car accidents, which is why Forbes reports that Independence Day has been named the “most dangerous holiday of the year.” This is particularly concerning in light of a recent report on the high rate of alcohol use in our country, particularly binge drinking. As reported in The Dallas Morning News:
“Average alcohol consumption in Europe, North America, and northeast Asia is roughly 10 liters of pure alcohol a year (100 bottles of wine). Most of that consumption is accounted for by heavy drinkers. In the United States, 20% of drinkers account for three-fourths of alcohol consumption. Worldwide, alcohol use is responsible for 3.3 million deaths — more than HIV, tuberculosis and violence combined.”
So, as you head to the store for hot dogs and cold beer, remember the legal responsibilities that come with hosting a party. For parents, lawyer Whitney O’Sullivan argues this includes being responsible for the activities of your children who attend parties:
“Negligent supervision is the failure to control a child’s actions when a parent (or grandparent, guardian, etc.) knows that the child’s actions need controlling. When you knowingly and willingly lend your car to your son, with the knowledge that he is prone to acting recklessly (or is unlicensed or incompetent), you become fully liable for any and all damage he may cause. This liability is without limits and your responsibility to bear.”
Following are five tips for July 4th party hosts to protect themselves from potential legal issues.
1. Cut off irresponsible drinkers. No one wants to stop their friends and family from having a good time. But if you’re guests are posing a risk to themselves and to others (especially if they get behind the wheel), consider this advice on cutting people off from professional bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. If that responsibility seems too much, and if it is within your budget, consider hiring a professional server to work at your party. You can also hire bartenders with an Alcohol Server Certification to ensure that they know the rules and regulations associated with hosting a party; that is the best way to ensure that you are protecting yourself and your guests.
2. Never allow minors to drink. As reported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), many states now have “social host liability laws [that] allow for adults to be held responsible to furnishing alcohol to those under 21 years old.” While it is hard to play the part of the hard-nosed parent, that is a much easier role than being the parent who is taken to court by another parent whose child was in a car crash after leaving your party.
3. Offer plenty of non-alcoholic options. Make sure that you have plenty of water and soft drinks available. The Internet is also full of some great recipes for mocktails, which are fun cocktail-style drinks that can decrease your own potential risks without impairing your guests’ experience. Check out the eight staff picks at AllRecipes.com for some inspired ideas. This is especially important if you are going to have underage guests at your party.
4. Think about alternative transportation. If you are having a neighborhood party, encourage your guests to walk or bicycle. If it’s too far, find someone who is willing to serve as a designated driver. Or, encourage your guests to use Uber or Lyft for a fast, affordable, and most importantly safe ride home.
5. Do know your local fireworks laws and don’t mix alcohol and explosives. Fireworks are fun and festive additions to a party, but they can be dangerous, even in the hands of experts, and have proven to be lethal in the hands of intoxicated persons. Every state also has different laws about when and where you can shoot fireworks. To learn about the laws in your area, check out this directory of state laws from the American Pyrotechnics Association.
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