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Social host liability in Massachusetts

Homeowners in Massachusetts who plan on throwing a party over the holiday season need to be aware of the social host laws. If they provide alcohol to guests, they may be liable for any harm or injuries the drinker causes. This includes accidents that occur due to drinking and driving.

According to Aetna, almost half of fatal highway accidents during the holiday season are due to drunk driving. In fact, almost three times more people die due to alcohol-fueled driving during Christmas and New Year's than any other time of the year. In the state of Massachusetts, and in 38 other states, not only are the drivers held liable, but so are the hosts who held the party in which the alcohol was imbibed.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, this social host liability has been in place since 2012. It affects hosts who provide or serve alcohol, but not those who require their guests to bring their own alcohol. With legal BAC limits of up to .08, it only takes a couple of drinks before most drivers would be considered to be over the limit, so hosts need to take extra precautions to not over serve or have alternate transportation available for guests.

One way for hosts to avoid potential liability is to have the party at a public facility, in which professional staff serves the alcohol. They are trained to identify when one has been over served, and the facility itself would be held liable in the event an accident does occur. If hosting at home, the hosts should provide plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and make sure guests do not drive if they have been drinking.

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