Halloween Liability Is no Treat – Here’s How to Avoid It

The scariest part of Halloween could be liability for unaware drivers and homeowners. Most people recognize the need to keep their walkways clean and free to prevent slip and fall accidents, but the biggest dangers actually involve driving, according to Donald R. Grady, a Boston personal injury lawyer with Sheff Law.

“You see an uptick in automobile accidents. Especially with teenagers, who don’t have adults with them and who rush from house to house,” Grady said, adding that the danger is greater in densely populated neighborhoods where parents may just drop their kids off and wait for them to complete their trick-or-treating rounds.

Here are some steps to take to help keep Halloween safe, and to minimize your liability at home and on the road.

Make sure walkways are clear and well-lit. Homeowners’ insurance provides slip-and-fall accident coverage and generally provides a small payment for medical bills, but you need to do your part as a homeowner by keeping walkways clear. Keep extension cords and decorations out of the way. If you have a broken stair or a hole in a pathway, steer trick-or-treaters away from it, either by blocking or fencing it off.

Give electronic decorations a safety check. Make sure all wiring and mechanical equipment is in good working order, that outlets are not overloaded and that extension cords are well out of the way. If one of these devices malfunctions and injures someone, it may be a product liability case rather than something that can be settled through a homeowners’ policy.

Check the times for trick-or-treating in your community. Some towns schedule specific times and dates for trick-or-treating, and these may fall before October 31 if communities try to keep trick-or-treaters from mingling with the evening rush hour commute on a workday. You can find these times posted on your community’s website and in local newspapers. As a resident, you will be expected to have your walkway in good order for any visitors during these times. Note that it is not illegal to trick-or-treat outside of the specified times, so you may have a wave of visitors during those times and again on Halloween.

Obey posted speed limits. Grady pointed out that most motor-vehicle accidents take place within five miles of home, where drivers may be too familiar with the surroundings. Drivers should make certain to obey all posted speed limits, generally 20 MPH on residential streets, because speeding can increase a driver’s personal liability in the event of an accident.

“People should know that people are out there. Driving past the speed limit is going to subject you to liability. Halloween night there are lots of surprises,” Grady said.

A jack-o-lantern lit by a candle sits on a porch at dusk
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