For protection, the Insurance Information Institute advices taking common-sense steps such as practicing perfect kitchen hygiene, and the IIABA says you should be aware of your state's "social host liability laws."
On the banquet front, keep in mind that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say food-borne illnesses are responsible for about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year.
If a guest gets food poisoning, a typical homeowners insurance policy would likely cover the cost for a trip to an emergency room. If medical expenses incurred go beyond that, the guest could sue.
Your homeowners insurance policy will generally protect you up to a minimum of $100,000 in liability coverage if anyone decides to take legal action, says Loretta Worters, III spokeswoman. "If your guest gets sick and sues you for damages, your insurer will pay for your legal expenses for a resulting lawsuit, even if the suit is groundless," she says. Also, here's where one would hope the individual has health insurance or voluntary medical benefits insurance and if confined, hospitalization insurance. This helps take care of their immediate emergencies.
Your Holidays Need Not Be Emergencies
Insurance claims typically double on Christmas day compared with a typical December day, a study from IIABA states. Turkey feasts are not only the centerpiece of Thanksgiving, it is popularly served through the entire Holidays. Blame the deep fryer and the lure of a crispy turkey. Fryers result in about 1,000 emergency fire calls each year, says the National Fire Protection Association, causing about $15 million in damage each year.
- More than a third of fires involving a fryer start in a garage or patio. Cook outdoors at a safe distance from any buildings or trees and keep the fryer off any wooden structures, like a deck or patio.
- Avoid a hot oil spillover by first filling the pot with cold oil and then lower the thawed turkey into the pot to determine how much oil needs to be added or removed.
- Shut off the fuel source or flame when adding the turkey to the hot oil to prevent a flare-up if oil does splash out.
- Make sure your turkey is completely thawed and dry before lowering it slowly into the pot.
- Never leave a hot turkey fryer unattended.
- Don't use ice or water to cool down oil or put out an oil fire.
- Keep an extinguisher approved for cooking or grease fire nearby.
Unattended cooking is the chief cause of fires, so:
- Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stove top.
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, any food check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stove top.
If you have a cooking fire:
- Just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number after you leave.
- If you try to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and you have a clear way out.
- Keep a lid nearby when you’re cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the stove top. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
More Practical Steps To Take
A recent IIABA survey of 760 families found that about 75 percent admit serving food prepared by others, outside their home, during the holidays. Here's the IIABA's safety advice on various potential holiday pitfalls:
- Make sure that you check food and don't put anything out that you suspect may be undercooked, spoiled or contaminated. Use only reputable food purveyors (caterers, delis, the local pizza joint and family or friends). When in doubt, throw it out.
- Put a cap on cocktails: If you want a party atmosphere, plan activities that don't center on drinking. Also, provide "safe, filling food" to counteract the alcohol and provide non-alcoholic beverages. Also, know who the designated drivers are before time. Stop serving liquor, wine and beer an hour before the party is expected to end. And cut off any guests who are clearly drunk or getting there.
- Party elsewhere: To lower your liability, have the holiday dinner at a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license instead of a home or office. And call a cab for anyone who has had too much. Or get them a hotel room or let them sleep it off at your place.
- now the law -- and your policy: Finally, the IIABA suggests learning just what the "social host liability" statutes are in your state to see exactly what you could be sued for. Reviewing your insurance policies each year is also a good idea, especially if you've increased the value of your home, income and assets.