Celebrating Halloween is one of the favorite events of millions of families all over the country. However, this spooky holiday can easily become a nightmare without adequate precautions. If you are concerned about being liable for any trick-or-treater injuries on your property, you are not alone. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about premises liability injuries on Halloween.
Are You Liable if a Trick-or-Treater Injures Themselves on Your Property?
You might be liable for injuries sustained by trick-or-treaters on your property if they were your guests and got injured because of your negligence. Per Halloween traditions, having your porch lights on during Halloween means that you are welcoming trick-or-treaters to come knock on your door. This can be sufficient to establish that the trick-or-treaters were guests at your property, especially if you were passing out candy.
In any premises liability case, the victim must prove that the responsible party knew about a danger at the property and did not alert the guests to it or failed to take reasonable actions to identify potential dangers. This means that you may be held liable if a child trips on a broken step on your porch, as you failed to fix it in time or set up an appropriate warning sign. Even if you did not know about the broken step, it could be argued that a reasonable person would be aware of such a danger, thus making you liable for it.
Are Homeowners Liable for Any Injuries Caused by the Treats They Hand Out?
Proving liability for food poisoning can be more difficult, as the sick trick-or-treater would have to prove that your treats caused them to fall ill. This could be extremely difficult to prove on Halloween as most children consume many different candies from different houses, thus making it difficult for them to pin the blame on you.
However, ill trick-or-treaters may suspect you if you pass out homemade treats, which is why handing out store-bought candy is the best recommendation from a liability perspective. As long as you do not hand out expired products, you may be able to transfer the liability to the candy manufacturer in a product liability case.
Will Homeowners Insurance Cover Liability for Injuries on Halloween?
Homeowners insurance typically covers bodily injuries to third parties. That means that your homeowners insurance may assume liability if any children are injured on your property, but not if you injure yourself on your property. However, each homeowners insurance policy is different, so review the terms and conditions of your policy to identify the coverage to which you are entitled.
What Are the Most Common Types of On-Premise Accidents on Halloween?
Halloween can be a terribly dangerous time for children. Kids are more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident on Halloween, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Although pedestrian accidents are by far the most common types of accidents on Halloween, there are many potential accident sources on your premises. Here are some of the most common:
- Tripping. Injuries caused by tripping are by far the most common type of injury for children on Halloween. Fortunately, most accidents like these only cause minor scarring or bruising, but some could be potentially devastating. If a child trips and fractures a bone on your property, you may be liable for the associated damages.
- Fire hazards. Halloween is all about creating the illusion of danger, and few things are spookier than lit candles in a dark environment. However, candles can be easily knocked over, which could easily turn a fun Halloween night into a fiery disaster.
- Dog bites. Perhaps you were not expecting your best friend to be a common source of injuries on Halloween, but dog bites are unfortunately common. No matter how well-behaved, dogs are still animals, so it can be difficult to predict how they will react to a particularly spooky Halloween.
- Slipping and falling. A jack-o-lantern is a staple of Halloween decorations. However, these can easily be knocked over or stepped on, revealing their gooey innards. This is a common source for slipping and falling on someone’s premises on Halloween.
Being aware of the common types of premises injuries on Halloween can make you a more informed homeowner. However, you still need to provide reasonable care to your guests by taking action to ensure their safety.
How Can I Make My Home Safer for Children on Halloween?
As a homeowner, it is your responsibility to make sure that your home is safe for your guests. If you plan on welcoming trick-or-treaters on Halloween, here are some of the steps you can take to make your home a safer environment for children:
- Inspect the area for any tripping hazards. Take a walk around the front of your house to look for any tripping hazards, like loose bricks or stray hoses. Keep in mind that children will not always use your front walkway, so make sure to inspect your front yard, garage, and porch.
- Make sure the outdoors is well-lit. A dark environment can be perfect for a spooky Halloween night, but it can also be conducive to tripping and falling. Use lights with motion sensors to illuminate the way when the little ones approach your home. Always avoid using real candles or lanterns, as they could be a fire hazard.
- Be mindful when choosing decorations. Getting into the spirit of Halloween can be one of the best parts of the holiday, but it is best not to overdo it with decorations. Decorations with special effects that might cause people to jump could be a source of injuries, and could even cause serious problems like seizures.
- Keep pets out of the way. While your pets may be extremely well-behaved in normal circumstances, you never know how they will react to potentially hundreds of children dressed up as ghosts and monsters. Keep your pet in a secure location while trick-or-treating is going on to avoid any unfortunate injuries.
If you want to take your home’s safety one step further, you can also set up a trick-or-treat booth at the very front of your lawn. That way, you will be able to celebrate Halloween without welcoming strangers into your property.