With the third installment of The Hangover in theaters now (it raked in more than $60 million in its first weekend), audiences around the world are gearing up for more fast-paced hijinks with one of the movie world’s wackiest groups of friends. And if the first two films are any indication, the R-rated antics will help kick off the summer blockbuster season with hearty laughter.
And the summer state of mind isn’t just infecting movie theater audiences – offices big and small are introducing summer hours, after-work get-togethers, and happy hours that let employees take advantage of warmer temps and longer sunlight hours. One of the great things about small companies, in fact, is that you have the flexibility to offer a relaxed social atmosphere at the end of the week.
But if yours is the kind of workplace that lets employees sip a beer on Friday afternoons or sponsors happy hours for your team, it’s important to be aware of the liquor-related liability issues that might arise. Before you serve the next round to your team, make sure you’ve got a handle on the liability risks alcohol introduces to the mix.
Do You Need a Liquor Liability Policy?
Unless you sell or serve alcohol to customers, you probably don’t need standalone Liquor Liability Insurance. But if you occasionally serve drinks to your staff, allow them to drink at the office, or sponsor after-work events that involve drinking, it’s a good idea to include Liquor Liability coverage in your General Liability policy or BOP.
- If an employee gets in an alcohol-related accident or suffers an injury connected to booze, you could be held liable. Incidents might include a drunk driving accident, a fight, an assault, or even something as simple as a trip-and-fall accident that wouldn’t have happened had no alcohol been involved. While lawsuits related to such incidents aren’t necessarily common, they’re certainly within the realm of possibility.
- Legal costs for alcohol-related claims can quickly skyrocket. Defending against alcohol-related claims in court can be an expensive proposition. In most states, DUI convictions come with mandatory minimum fines or sentences, and other alcohol-related offenses are similarly costly. Being hit with alcohol-related charges without adequate coverage can quickly drain any financial reserves you or your company have.
- Liquor-related incidents may not be covered unless you have specific provisions in your policy. While some General Liability policies and BOPs include basic Liquor Liability coverage, others do not. If incidents related to alcohol consumption are specifically excluded, you could be on the hook even if you thought you were protected. If you plan on serving alcohol this summer, check with your insurance agent to verify that your policy covers you in the event of booze-related claims.
Avoid a Liability Hangover with Savvy Policies
So how can owners of small businesses keep their employees safe (and their liability low) without resorting to corporate-feeling policies and rules? Try implementing a few of these low-key but effective policies…
- Set a time limit. Keeping an event to one or two hours limits the amount of alcohol your employees can consume. Removing alcohol options after the official end time of an event may help reduce your potential liability for things that go wrong.
- Give out drink tickets. Capping the per-capita drink consumption to two or three with an informal system like tickets is a low-key way to prevent overindulging.
- Book a trolley. If you’d rather not set limits on how much your employees can imbibe, arrange transportation for them to ensure that nobody gets behind the wheel after having too much to drink.
- Avoid hard liquor. Serving only beer and wine limits your employees’ opportunity to become impaired, which in turn reduces the chances that you’ll have an alcohol-related incident on your hands.