As we approach New Year’s Eve many people will be planning a New Year’s Eve party for friends and family or perhaps looking to attend a more formal event. Unfortunately, where crowds congregate, and alcohol is present there is an increased risk of injury which can in some circumstances lead to legal action. We will now take a look at potential issues, who may be liable and how to protect yourself from paying out on personal injury claims.
The obvious difference between a private party and a public event is that public events tend to charge people to attend (although not always). A private party is just that, a private event on an invitation only basis. Many people fall into the trap of assuming that because it is a private party they will not be liable for any injuries caused while at the event. There are some significant differences between private parties and public parties hence the reason why public parties require specific event insurance to cover any potential liabilities.
Securing Your Venue
In reality no venue, whether a private home or commercial premises, will ever be 100% secure with regards to potential accidents. However, those who host parties have a legal obligation and a duty of care to those attending and this includes securing the venue. This may take into account such issues as cracked paving stones in the garden, perhaps an outdoor water feature which may be dangerous for children or even something as simple as a broken fence panel. The vast majority of accidents in and around the home, whether for those living in the property or attending an event, will be covered by household insurance but it is worth checking the small print.
Food And Drink
When supplying food and drink at a New Year’s Eve party it is common sense to ensure that everything is safe to consume and in the case of food, cooked properly. Instances of food poisoning and the consumption of out of date (and potentially dangerous) alcoholic drinks may well leave you liable to a personal injury claim.
The issue of food poisoning is perhaps more prevalent for barbecues where with the best will in the world it can be difficult to maintain food quality with everything going on around you. In these instances, many people now look towards private catering companies who are brought in to provide food and sometimes drink. In the event of a case of food poisoning it will be the private caterers, who will have their own commercial insurance, that are potentially liable for any personal injury claims.
While bringing in a private company to provide food and drink for your New Year’s Eve party may stretch your budget, if it is a sizeable event then it may be something to think about.
Stay In Control
Unfortunately, where alcohol is involved some parties can get particularly rowdy with physical altercations far too common. If someone attending your party is injured as a result of a physical altercation with a fellow guest then you could be held at least partially liable for any personal injury claim. The obvious first port of call would be the guest who had assaulted the claimant and if the host of the party had taken reasonable care to avoid such altercations, there may not be a case to answer on their side. However, where it could be argued that groups or individuals were put together in a situation which may lead to violence there is the potential for the host to be held partially liable.
The issue of uninvited guests is obviously another problem when hosting a private New Year’s Eve party which can cause friction with invited guests. Where you can feel a problem brewing, those causing the issues should be ejected and if this proves difficult then the police should be called. If the host is able to prove they took reasonable action to prevent any physical confrontations this would give them a significant degree of protection in the event of legal action. While it is unfortunate that a few versus of “Auld Lang Syne” might be interrupted by verbal and physical altercations, this happens far too often at New Year’s Eve events.
Commercial New Year’s Eve Parties
For many pubs and clubs, New Year’s Eve is the busiest time of the year and one which often requires significant additional investment in security. If you are attending a New Year’s Eve party on commercial premises, whether tickets are sold or not, it is the obligation of the host to ensure the protection of guests under their duty of care. Every business in the UK is legally obliged to have public liability insurance in place which will cover the business in the event of an accident on the premises which results in a personal injury claim. Some of the more specific issues to address with regards to commercial New Year’s Eve parties include:
All premises which host commercial events need to have a statutory license that will stipulate the maximum number of people the venue can hold. While sometimes it is difficult to keep an accurate track of those attending events this is part of the duty of care on the business in question. If it is proven that the number of people who attended exceeded the maximum stipulated for the premises then this could be grounds for damages. In reality, exceeding the maximum number of individuals allowed on the premises is illegal and could put those in attendance at risk of injury. In practice, proving that the number of people actually in attendance was above the legal limit is difficult.
While those hosting a private New Year’s Eve party have their own obligation and duty of care towards their guests, the situation is a lot more in-depth for commercial events. Those hosting commercial events need to carry out an in-depth risk assessment before the event and ensure that any issues are addressed to ensure the safety of guests. These assessments must be logged and any additional insurance requirements must be in place at least 14 days before the event. There is every chance that local authority inspectors could cancel a commercial event if no risk assessment has been carried out and the relevant insurance is not in place.
As New Year’s Eve is a very important time of year for entertainment venues the vast majority will already have procedures in place to ensure they abide by local regulations and duty of care requirements.
Food And Drink
Most pubs and clubs and other commercial premises hosting parties will have in place both licences for alcoholic beverages and the serving of food. Where there are large events they may need to bring in outside catering services but whether food is prepared in-house or by a commercial catering operation, those attending will be covered for the likes of food poisoning. If you consider the potential number of people attending these events, any case of food poisoning could lead to personal injury claims well into the tens of thousands of pounds. As with the commercial premises hosting an event, all commercial outside catering companies will also have in place the relevant public liability insurance. In reality, these are fully functioning businesses that will likely have significant experience hosting parties of a varying size. Instances of food poisoning and other associated incidents will be very few and far between but at least those attending will be aware that insurance cover is already in place to fund potential compensation claims.
Ending New Years Eve With A Bang!
A growing number of people choose to see in the New Year with impressive firework displays whether attending private parties or commercial events. In the case of private parties, any incidents caused by stray fireworks should in theory be covered by household insurance although it is worth checking the small print. The situation with commercial events and commercial firework displays is slightly different as there is an array of safety issues to take into account. Again, those hosting commercial events will need to have the relevant insurance cover in place as well as the backup paperwork to show that health and safety assessments have been carried out and potential issues addressed.
While the vast majority of New Year’s Eve parties will leave behind nothing more than a few sore heads in the morning as a consequence of overindulgence, it is good to know where you stand whether you are hosting a party or attending one. The duty of care upon the host towards those attending is very often a case of common sense. Those who try to cut corners and skirt by regulations leave themselves open to legal action and potentially large compensation payouts.
It is worth noting that whether hosting a party at home or on commercial premises, no venue will ever be 100% secure but if you have taken all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of guests, this will bode well in the event of any legal action.