Liquor liability insurance is business insurance that protects your business against loss or damages claimed as a result of a patron of your business becoming intoxicated and injuring themselves or others. If your business manufactures, sells, serves, or facilitates the uses or purchase of alcohol, then your business may need this coverage.
Liquor liability coverage may be sold as an add-on to a commercial liability policy or as a separate liability policy. But, if you do not purchase this extra coverage your standard liability policy DOES NOT protect your business against these kind of claims.
This coverage is expensive - depending on your location - and it is estimated by experts that only 35% of businesses that should have this coverage actually purchase this coverage. Part of this is because of misconceptions that exist in the hospitality industry regarding the industry's liability risks for intoxicated patrons. That issue is a topic in itself. Part of this is because the insurers continually add exclusions to the point that this coverage is seen as having no value.
If you live in a state with a "dram shop liability" statute, then purchase this insurance if your business will manufacture, sell, serve, or facilitate the use of alcohol.
What to look for/ask for in a liquor liability policy:
- Assault and Battery Coverage - Most claims against bars and restaurants are the results of fights. Your liquor liability policy should include coverage for assault and battery claims. If not, the policy has a much lower real value.
- Defense Costs Included - The biggest cost facing your business in these types of claims is the cost of retaining a lawyer against frivolous claims. Insurers know this. That is why they sell policies where "defense costs" are deducted from the total coverage. That is, your $500,000 policy is reduced to $400,000 because of $100,000 in attorneys' fees. Frankly, even with a lower premium, pass on the policy if it does not provide your business with skilled, appointed legal counsel that does not reduce coverage.
- Employees Included - If you serve, then employees will drink regardless of the rules. Insurers know this and sometimes exclude employees from coverage. Make sure employees are covered as patrons.
- Damage Definition Includes Mental Damages - Claimants may claim they were damaged in non-physical ways: stress, mental anguish, or psychological damage. Some policies exclude these types of damages. Don't purchase a policy with limited damage definitions.
- Reduced Premiums Based on Safety and Claims - Good insurers who are market leaders in bar and restaurant insurance will offer free classes and training to their insureds employees and discounts on premiums for having safety training and no claim history. Some insurers will reduce premiums by 15-20% for this basic safety training.