Every year the children of our town (and those who want to relive their childhood) dress up for Halloween. The merchants and business people of the Dahlonega Square welcome them with smiles not to mention loads of candy for each goodie bag. This celebration casts the Halloween holiday in its best light. Well lighted and safe streets make for a welcome event.
Homeowners and renters also participate in the Halloween spirit outside of the safe environs of the square. Neighbors often place extravagant displays outside of their homes with invitations for outsiders who dare to come in. Others prefer to have parties for their friends, and neighbors.
All of these activities can lead to injuries if not thought out, and planned for. If someone places a display which presents a tripping hazard then a friend or neighbor can get hurt. If someone has a party in a room with poor lighting and a friend gets hurt, then who has responsibility for the medical bills and other damages. What happens if there is too much noise, or the streets become clogged with vehicles? Who has responsibility then?
Halloween also can present a more sinister and dark side. Vandalism, and other acts of sabotage can ruin more than an evening. Fights and other acts of violence can make for a night in jail.
The law places many burdens and responsibilities on those who own and/or control property and conditions that present a hazard.
The issues presented in premises liability are amplified during Halloween because more people use the holiday to get out and have fun. People who normally never have visitors will open their doors to those asking for candy! Although well intentioned those homeowners, and renters did not plan adequately to avoid the hazards that come with the holiday.
As a lawyer I advise my clients to plan for Halloween. Tripping hazards and lighting needs should be reviewed and assessed. Adequate clearances, and well lit steps can help avoid liability problems later. Guardrails, handrails, and decking should be examined to assure that they ate in a safe and working order.
The careful serving of alcohol and the procedures on making certain that intoxicated individuals remain safe is also recommended. Having the number of a cab company can be a simple yet important precaution,
As a lawyer I always believe that each person needs to have a lawyer assist them as necessary. In that regard I also recommend that each person review their insurance policies to make sure that all common hazards are covered. A good talk with your insurance agent could help protect you from the goblins of Halloween with adequate coverage. A good policy can assure protection from the risks of a bad incident. Lawyers who work by the hour can be pricey. A good insurance policy from a reputable company not only will cover damages but just as importantly your lawyer fees (usually when those lawyers are provided to a policyholder from their own insurance company).
In my career I have tried and handled many premises related accidents. Oftentimes premises accidents are more horrific than auto accidents as the human body does not have its own air bags, or other safety devices usually found in a vehicle! Thus slip and falls, and other premise related injuries result in higher damage awards against the land owner or renter or both. Just recently we resolved a knee injury case for over $300,000 in a slip and fall due to water leakage in a store. Six figure verdicts and settlements are not uncommon in this area of personal injury.
A good lawyer should be sought in the event you are hurt during Halloween or at any other time you are injured in a premises related accident as special rules apply on liability.
I hope everyone enjoys the Halloween fun. Be careful, and be safe, and have a great time!