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March Madness is here! Time to fill out your brackets and start cheering on the games with friends and family. In addition to providing hours of college basketball entertainment, the NCAA Tournament is one of the largest gambling events of the year. The Fiscal Timesestimates that Americans will bet a total of $9 billion on the outcomes of these games this year.

You may remember that in 2014, Warren Buffet offered $1 billion to anyone who could accurately predict the outcomes of all NCAA brackets. It was a pretty safe bet, as the odds of completing a perfect bracket are close to impossible. But the difficulty in guessing how the games will play out is part of the fun that surrounds this tournament.

With all the excitement surrounding these games, watching parties and events are not uncommon. This leads to some to wonder about potential liability issues and whether or not they are covered against them. In most cases, this depends on the type of event and the venue in which they happen.

Events Hosted by Bars, Restaurants and Nightclubs

If you are the owner of this type of establishment, you may be taking advantage of March Madness to increase your customer draw—particularly if you have a lot of big-screen TVs on which the games can be seen by your patrons. Naturally, the flow of alcohol is paramount to increased profits and a party atmosphere, but it can also lead to liability lawsuits in the event that an intoxicated patron causes personal injury or property damage to another.

If you own an establishment that sells alcoholic beverages, you will likely need a special insurance policy, known as liquor liability, to be protected.  Standard commercial liability policies exclude coverage for businesses that are in the business of selling or serving alcohol. You also will want to make sure you are in compliance with the laws in your state.  Liquor liability policies typically meet the coverage needs of a liquor license holder, but it is always a good idea to discuss your protection with your agent.

Private Parties Thrown in Your Home

Most NCAA Tournament parties are held in people’s homes. If you are hosting a watching party, you may worry about a liability lawsuit if one of your guests goes overboard with the booze. The good news for you is that your homeowners or renters insurance policy is likely to cover this sort of liability.

Chances are good that you won’t be charging your guests for drinks, or even that you will be serving them. In the case of most house parties, alcoholic beverages are made available, but guests serve themselves. This greatly lowers your liability risk. Of course, anyone can decide to sue for just about anything, and if this were to happen as the result of something that occurred at your party, your home insurance is in place to provide the liability coverage you need.

Office Parties Held in the Workplace

Maybe you’ve been working your employees really hard and want to reward them. Or maybe you are looking to the excitement of March Madness to facilitate team-building exercises. Whatever the reason, if you are allowing your employees to drink alcoholic beverages and watch the game at your place of business, you may have questions about liability coverage if things get out of hand.

So, are you covered? Chances are, yes. If yours is a business that sells, serves, provides or distills alcohol, you probably already have liquor liability coverage as part of your commercial insurance policy. Otherwise, so long as you are not charging your employees for the drinks you provide at the party, your commercial general liability (CGL) coverage will most likely handle any liability issues that may arise.

Corporate Parties Held at Third-Party Venues

Sometimes, corporate offices will hold large parties at an outside venue such as a hotel or reception hall where food and bartending services are provided. In many cases, invitees are given drink tickets that entitle them to a couple of free drinks, but they have to pay for their own drinks thereafter. Other times, there may be an open bar for the first couple of hours, and then guests must buy their drinks. Either way, this does open up the potential for alcohol-related liability.

It is possible that some, or all, of this liability will be covered by the policies you already have or by the policies held by the event’s venue. To be on the safe side, however, many corporations will purchase event insurance to supplement this coverage and ensure that they are fully protected against all possible liability. In some cases, the venue at which your gathering is held may require you to have event insurance.

Event insurance is designed to be in effect for the duration of your event only. It would therefore need to be purchased prior to any large gathering of this nature.

When in Doubt, Ask an Agent

As you can see, there are a number of different ways that people may be exposed to liability lawsuits during March Madness. If you are planning to host an NCAA Watching Party and you are uncertain about your protection, your local Trusted Choice® agent can advise you about what coverage you currently have and any additional coverage you may need to fully eliminate your exposure.

Now get started on those brackets! helps people and businesses connect with the right insurance agent for their needs. We have over 140,000 agents that represent hundreds of insurance companies.

COURTESY OF:  TRUSTEDCHOICE.COM / 18 Mar 2015 09:52 AM by Paul Martin with Meg Stefanac

Posted 6:43 PM

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