With Christmas and New Year’s celebrations just around the corner many of us will attend gatherings or parties at friend’s places to celebrate the festive season. While none of us would contemplate an injury occurring at our friend’s residence, sometimes things don’t always go to plan and accidents do occur.
Parties can quickly get out of hand with uninvited guests arriving, people consuming too much alcohol too quickly, property damage, and personal injury to guests are some of the things that can go wrong.

So what are your rights when it comes to an accident at a private residence? We examine your options should this occur and also provide some helpful tips on how to keep your party guests safe if you are hosting a get together.

If you attend a party and suffer injuries at a friend's house then you potentially have the right to bring a claim for personal injury against them. Whether you can successfully bring a claim in negligence for your injury will, like all negligence cases, depend upon how your injury occurred. The host/s of the party you attend have the obligation to keep you, as their guest, safe. They need to take reasonable care and provide a safe environment for you.

To be successful in your claim you will need to argue that they failed in this duty/obligation and as a result you suffered an injury. Some examples may include:
  • If the party becomes out of control and you are injured you will need to show that the host failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that the party remained under control;
  • If host has invited too many guests for the size of the residence and you are injured (such as trampled) as a result of this overcrowding then the host has failed to ensure the venue was safe;
  • If you are injured by another guest who is clearly under the influence of alcohol and the host failed to take adequate steps to deal with this person;
  • If the venue itself is unsafe; such as inadequate lightening or verandas/steps/railings are in poor condition and you suffer an injury as a result then the host has failed to provide a safe environment.
Should you be worried about bringing a claim against your friend there may be some comfort in knowing that, if your friend has taken out home and contents insurance, most insurers offer cover for public liability as part of a home and contents policy. So a claim for injuries at a friend's house would be dealt with and paid by their insurer.

If, after reading the above, you are still as keen as ever to host a party at your residence here are some tips on how to keep your party guests safe. The Queensland Police service recommends the following:
  • Keep it exclusive, invitation only;
  • Register the party with your local police station;
  • Have your first aid kit stocked and ready to go if required;
  • Provide food, non-alcoholic drinks, and water;
  • Snacks high in protein and carbohydrate such as cheese, dips, crackers, chips, raw vegetables and seafood delay the absorption of alcohol;
  • Avoid serving too many salty foods, as these tend to make people thirsty and encourage them to drink more;
  • If you are providing alcohol, limit full strength alcoholic drinks such as full strength beer, spirits, wine, and champagne. Provide a good selection of lower strength drinks.
  • Ensure that your residence is suitably equipped for the number of people invited;
  • Consider if there are any potential hazards that require extra preventative measures or supervision e.g. swimming pools, gas heaters, BBQ’s;
  • Set a standard for acceptable behaviour and see that it is maintained. Have a plan to deal with guests who behave badly;
  • Be mindful of your obligations as a host. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs affects your ability to make safe decisions; stay in control and sober so that you are able to deal with problems quickly and effectively;
  • Check your liability insurance so you know what your policy covers, particularly whether you are covered should your party result in personal injury to a third party or damage to your property.
Parties and gatherings are lots of fun and are something that we all look forward to attending (most of the time!). Hosts have the duty to keep their guests safe and their party under control. If they fail to do so they may be liable in negligence for an injury sustained by one of their guests.
As a guest at the party you should also take steps (such as limiting your alcohol consumption) to not only ensure your safety but the safety of others, and to make sure that your friendship with the host remains strong for the next gathering!

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