Smart Summer Hosting

For most American families, summer is outdoor celebration time, fireworks time, barbecue time, and fun-in-the-sun-by-the-pool time. If you're the one who happens to be hosting, however, it's important to recognize that these quintessential summer activities present unique risks, as well as potential liability issues.

Are homeowners really responsible for their guests?

Social host liability specifically refers to the responsibilities of a host or establishment that serves alcohol. When it comes to these laws, every state is different. Homeowners can also be held liable if an accident occurs on their property due to unsafe conditions, such as failing to maintain pool or playground equipment.

Before inviting summer guests, know your state's laws and visit with your insurance professional to understand your responsibilities as a host. In the meantime, here are a few ways to avoid common summer mishaps and ensure that you, your family, and guests are protected.

Grill with skill: It's no surprise that a gas or charcoal barbecue is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment. Make sure yours is well cleaned and in working order before your first summer cookout. Always operate the grill in an open space, away from furniture, decks, or children at play, and never use a barbecue indoors. When operating the grill, wear protective clothing and use appropriate utensils to avoid getting burned. Never leave a grill unattended. Finally, in case of fire, keep a fire extinguisher, baking soda, or a bucket of sand close by.

Prevent Foodborne Illness: When cooking outdoors, use the same safe food handling practices you would use in the kitchen. Keep raw meats separate from other foods, and don't leave any food items out for an extended period of time. Use a thermometer to be sure meats are cooked thoroughly, and never reuse a marinade that has already come in contact with raw meat. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Last but not least, always wash your hands before and after handling food.

Practice Pool Safety: According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 400 children drown each year and thousands more are injured while using a pool. Whether you're staying cool in a backyard or community pool, it's important to take safety precautions to prevent the worst from happening. First, don't allow children even older ones to use any pool unattended. Remember, knowing how to swim is an asset, but it's not guaranteed to prevent accidents. Private residence pools should be well maintained and securely fenced when not in use. Most importantly, make sure an adult is always assigned to keep their eyes on the water with no distractions.

Use Caution When Serving Alcohol: Serving alcohol to minors is an obvious no-no, but a homeowner can also be held responsible for underage drinking on their property even if they were not present or did not condone the behavior. Similarly, some states hold hosts liable for negligently serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated guests, if the guest's condition results in an accident or crime. Aside from the potential liability issues, serving alcohol at any event increases the risk that somebody will get hurt; so be sure to serve cautiously and keep an eye on guests who are drinking, especially if they are driving.

As long as you take reasonable steps to keep your property free of hazards, there's no reason to be discouraged from inviting friends, neighbors and family to your home for some hot dogs and hamburgers or an afternoon dip in the pool. Become a smart host to enjoy safe celebrations all summer long.

For more information, call or contact Mathews Insurance, Inc. today.

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