What Happens When Someone Is Injured at Your Home Holiday Party?
An injury can turn a holiday party from festivity to fear in an instant. As a host, the last thing you want is to harm any of your guests – but poor lighting, broken steps, clutter in walkways, and other hazards can result in injury. And you could be facing a lawsuit from someone you opened your home to.
Your Responsibilities as a Party Host and Homeowner
South Carolina allows an injured person to hold a property owner responsible if a personal injury was caused by the property owner’s negligence. The degree of responsibility the property owner has depends on their relationship to the injured person.
South Carolina has four different categories for these relationships:
- Invitees. Invitees are business customers or guests, such as holiday shoppers or travelers staying in a hotel. Businesses have a high duty of care to their guests. They must use reasonable care to keep the premises safe, protect invitees from injury, and warn invitees of risks.
- Licensees. A licensee is a social guest – like the friends you invite to a holiday party. Property owners must warn guests about risks they can’t quickly discover on their own.
- Trespassers. A trespasser doesn’t have permission to enter a property. Property owners are not obliged to fix hazards or warn trespassers about dangerous conditions.
- Children. The degree of care owed to children differs, depending on the child’s age and ability to identify dangers independently. The duty a property owner owes to a 16-year-old niece or nephew who can spot and avoid obvious hazards, for instance, may be different from the duty owed to a two-year-old niece or nephew who can’t yet fully understand or avoid danger.
Holiday party guests typically fall into the “licensee” category. Homeowners do not have to go out of their way to fix problems, but they do need to warn their guests when they are aware of dangerous conditions. For example, homeowners may not have a duty to fix a broken step between the living room and kitchen, but they may be responsible for warning guests: “Don’t step there; it’s broken.” If a homeowner does not warn guests about known hazards, the homeowner may be liable if a guest is injured.
Safety Tips for Throwing At-Home Holiday Parties
Make your holiday party one to remember – for the right reasons. Add these safety tasks to your holiday party preparation to reduce the risk of injury.
Embrace holiday lighting. Many slips, trips, and bumps occur because guests can’t see hazards in their way. Use plenty of indoor and outdoor lighting to help visitors see and avoid potentially dangerous conditions.
Create an open, inviting space. As you decorate, strike a balance between decor and clutter. Clear the floors of clutter, especially in hallways and doorways. Make sure seating areas are easy to access. Place decorations where they can’t easily be knocked over.
Think like a child. If your guests include young children, take a child’s-eye view of your house. Tuck away electrical cords, move breakables out of reach of small hands, and consider securing cabinet doors. Warn the parents of young children about hazards so they can keep an eye on their kids.
Never leave the kitchen unattended. It doesn’t take long for a party to distract the host – and for dinner or dessert to be ruined. Reduce the risk of a fire or other incident by ensuring that someone is always keeping an eye on the kitchen when cooking takes place.
Use signs to help you. You know all the hidden quirks of your house, but your guests do not. It’s not always possible to warn every party guest about a hazard in person. If you know about a risk that your guests won’t spot, don’t be afraid to hang up a sign, such as “Caution: Broken Step” or “This Door Does Not Close.”
Take pet precautions. If you have a pet, even though they have never bitten or scratched you, they may act differently when under stress such as during a party or gathering. Secure your pet in a room where they can be away from the noise and confusion if you have any concerns.
Handle Alcohol Responsibly
As a host, you have responsibilities when it comes to your guests’ alcohol consumption. When your guests overindulge, the risk of a slip and fall injury increases.
If you choose to include alcohol in your holiday party, keep these safety tips in mind.
- Provide plenty of non-alcoholic options. Soft drinks, water, and mocktails offer ways for guests to enjoy themselves without drinking alcohol in excess.
- Have a plan for guests who don’t have a way home safely. Hire a taxi service, Uber, or Lyft. Set up a space in your home for guests who may need to stay over. Encourage family and friends to choose a designated driver before they arrive.
- Close the bar before the party ends. An hour or two before you expect guests to leave, put away the alcohol. This is a great time to bring out dessert and coffee instead.
You can take steps to reduce the risk of injury at the holiday parties you host this year. If you’re injured while attending a party, consider speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer. The team at the Steinberg Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 843-720-2800 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.