Every claim is unique, but some kinds of claims come up more often than others. That’s the case with many liquor liability claims, which tend to fall into 3 main categories. If your Council hosts events where alcohol is served, you face a higher risk for these liquor liability claims.

Here’s what your Council should know about the 3  common liquor liability claims and the steps you can take to prevent them.

3 Common Liquor Liability Claims: #1 Alcohol Served to a Minor

It’s prohibited by law to serve or sell alcohol to a minor under the minimum legal drinking age of 21. Even so, underage drinking is still common. According to a 2019 report from the Department of Health and Human Services, around 20% of those under 21 report consuming alcohol.

For your Council, enforcement of the drinking age is a must. Law enforcement makes efforts to ensure compliance, especially around major holidays. A violation of the law could result in administrative actions, criminal fines, legal fees or court judgements.

3 Common Liquor Liability Claims: #2 Alcohol Over-Served to a Patron

In many states, it is also prohibited for an establishment to sell or serve alcohol to a patron who is already visibly intoxicated. Servers have the right to refuse service if a patron is too intoxicated for the safety of the patron as well as others. If a patron is over-served, they could go on to cause injury or property damage to themselves or others.

As with serving minors, law enforcement may hold your Council responsible for over-serving, resulting in a claim. A violation could result in a number of costly fines or penalties.

Servers should be trained to spot the signs of visible intoxication. Showing reduced coordination, buying rounds, ordering doubles, talking loudly or appearing quiet or sleepy are just some of the signs a patron may have had too much to drink. As a general rule, if a patron is showing two or more of the commonly accepted signs, it’s a good idea to cut the person off.

3 Common Liquor Liability Claims: #3 Damages Resulting from Alcohol Serving

A claim can also occur if a minor or patron who is served alcohol at the Council leaves and causes bodily injury, death or property damage in a car accident or fight. While laws vary from state to state, some areas allow the injured minor, patron or a third party to sue the establishment for damages.

Alcohol-related injuries and fatalities remain all too common. Every day, an average of 30 people die in alcohol-related car accidents according to the NHTSA, with drunk driving claiming more than 10,000 lives every year.

State laws called dram shop laws, named after the teaspoon-sized “dram” servings of early American taverns, are on the books in most states allowing for an establishment to be held accountable for a victim’s damages.

While the specifics of the law vary from state to state, your Council faces a high risk of a claim for over-serving patrons who are already intoxicated or for serving minors under the legal drinking age. Claims for these lawsuits are the costliest, sometimes resulting in million-dollar judgements.

Steps to Prevent Common Liquor Liability Claims

As a Council that serves alcohol, you face many risks and it’s important to take steps to prevent a claim. Alcohol server training is one of the best preventative measures your Council can take.

Alcohol server training is available from several educational programs. Some nationally recognized programs include Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) and Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM).

Proper training is developed in coordination with law enforcement, liquor control, highway safety and substance abuse organizations to make sure servers get accurate information to stay compliant with local laws.

Courses also offer problem-solving techniques that can improve safety and reduce the risk of liquor law violations, alcohol-related injuries and liquor liability claims. Common tips include:

  • Requiring ID for serving alcohol.
  • Encouraging responsible drinking.
  • Offering snacks to help absorb alcohol.
  • Encouraging “one drink per hour” guidelines.
  • Stopping bar service an hour before the end of the event.
  • Encouraging guests to use designated drivers.
  • Suggesting a guest call a cab, Uber or Lyft.

Events where alcohol is served can be an important feature of at the Council. Taking care to understand the most common liquor liability claims is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of a claim.

Make sure your organization complies with all local laws and licensing requirements and consider investing in alcohol server training. Free and discounted courses may be available.

Even with proper training and excellent servers, it’s still possible your Council could one day face a liquor liability claim. To fully protect yourself, make sure you are covered with Liquor Liability Insurance from Lockton Affinity. It’s specifically designed to meet the needs of your Council, giving you peace of mind and providing the coverage you need.