Gingerbread is baking in the oven, shovels are at the ready, and Christmas lights are twinkling from your tree. As you wrap presents and welcome friends into your home, try these simple steps that can reduce your risk for holiday slip-ups. Nobody wants their merry and bright ruined with a liability lawsuit or by having new gifts stolen on New Year’s Eve.
When you’re the host
From spiked cider and mulled wine to punch and craft brews, boozy beverages are part of many holiday gatherings. Under your home insurance policy, liability coverage can protect you from paying compensatory damages out of pocket when you unintentionally cause bodily injury to another person or damage their property.
But if you host a party and guests are served alcohol past the point of intoxication, you could be liable for their actions after they leave, whether they cause a car crash or a bar fight. Even if you host a BYOB event, you could be held responsible.
To reduce your exposure to social host liability, start by drinking responsibly yourself. You may not need to drive home, but you won’t be able to reliably judge your guests’ level of inebriation if you’re totally blotto.
Always serve food, as well as non-alcoholic drinks beyond water. Don’t rush to refill guests’ glasses, pressure them to drink, or serve them when they’re visibly intoxicated. And towards the end of the evening, switch to serving tea, coffee, and other non-alcoholic beverages.
If you notice a guest isn’t able to drive, see if they can get a ride with a sober guest, call them a taxi, or offer up your spare bedroom.
If an accident happens despite all your precautions, the Insurance Bureau of Canada recommends recording names and contact information for witnesses, not discussing liability with the potential claimants, contacting your insurer or broker immediately, and never admitting liability.
When you’re the guest
Even burglars take Christmas off. Data from Aviva UK found that theft claims are 60% lower than average on Dec. 25. But they’re back in the game by New Year’s Eve: claims jump 8%, as thieves take advantage of empty houses and the cover of countdowns to help themselves to freshly unwrapped presents.
Before you leave for a New Year’s Eve party, make sure you triple-check locks on doors, windows, and garages. If you’re away for a holiday, try setting lights and radios on a timer.
As for gifts, leave the beautiful window displays to the department stores. Keeping presents away from the tree by the window is a good step, as is shredding or ripping packaging from new gifts before you toss it. That way, thieves rifling through your recycling bin won’t automatically know there’s a pricey new television just one picked lock away.
When you’re in the kitchen
Aviva’s claims data also found fire claims spike during the holidays. More specifically, they jump 50% on New Year’s Eve and 120% on Christmas Day. That’s likely because more people are cooking, lighting candles, and overloading sockets.
To cut down on your fire risk, turn off Christmas lights when you’re out of the house or in bed. Make sure your tree isn’t close to any fireplaces or candles, and double-check that you’ve turned off the stove and oven when you’ve finished cooking.