For many people, holiday party season begins with Halloween and continues through New Year's. Many companies have onsite parties after hours. Others choose local bars, restaurants and event venues for their festivities -- particularly their big holiday/year-end parties.

A lot of business owners no longer serve alcohol at their office parties and limit the amount of alcohol they'll pay for at other locations. As the dangers of drunk driving have become more widely discussed, they're concerned for the safety of their employees and others on the road. Concerns about potential liability no doubt are a factor as well.

"Social host" liability doesn't just apply to people who have parties in their homes. A company that hosts a party where alcohol is served can also be held liable if someone who's clearly intoxicated leaves, gets behind the wheel and is involved in a crash. If a minor (such as intern working at the company) is served alcohol, the company can face additional legal problems. So can anyone who knowingly buys alcohol for a minor at an event.

Connecticut, like many states, recognizes social host liability. The ability to hold social hosts liable for the harm done by an intoxicated guest has been upheld in more than one Connecticut Supreme Court decision.

Companies have another incentive to have alcohol-free holiday parties or to at least limit the number of free drinks employees can have. The risk of sexual harassment increases as people get a few drinks in them and inhibitions are lowered. Employers can be held legally responsible for harassment and assaults that occur at company-sponsored events.

If you or a loved one has been injured or worse by a drunk driver on their way home from a bar, restaurant or private party, it's worthwhile to determine whether anyone besides that driver can and should be held liable. This can help you get the compensation you need and deserve. It can also help send a message that those who serve alcohol have a responsibility to do everything they can to ensure that guests don't get on the roads when they're in no condition to do so.

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