The Other Side of Halloween Safety

As Halloween approaches, make sure your property is safe and secure for trick-or-treaters, says top insurance lawyer, Frank N. Darras.

Most people think of protecting their kids when it comes to Halloween safety, but the greater risk actually lies in your own front yard. Homeowners have a responsibility to keep their property safe for anyone who enters and are subject to "premises liability" (also called slip and fall). If a person slips, trips, or falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition the property owner may be fully responsible.

"A lot of people overlook this other side of Halloween safety. It's easy to warn your kids to only approach well-lit homes and stay in groups, but the bigger danger may be right in front of your eyes. Hospital bills and damages for 'pain and suffering' are expensive. Make sure you protect yourself by giving your yard and front porch a thorough check before that first trick-or-treater comes knocking," says Frank N. Darras, America's top disability insurance lawyer.

Most people think of the obvious conditions of snow and ice as dangerous, but others to be aware of include electrical cords used to power Halloween decorations, decorations that stick out of the ground, burned out porch lights, or other obstructions in the yard and uneven walkaways. As ridiculous as it sounds, even the jack-o-lanterns on the front porch can be a risk. Consider if one gets knocked over by a previous kid and then little Susie slips and falls on pumpkin debris.

In this example, even though that accident wasn't the homeowner's fault, when determining a property owner's responsibility, the law concentrates on whether the owner makes regular and thorough efforts and takes precautions to keep the property safe. The insurance company will also look at whether the owner caused or created dangerous conditions and whether the owner "should have" known about this dangerous condition.

These claims usually go through a homeowner's insurance policy first, but if there is not enough liability insurance to cover the claim, the owner can be held personally financially responsible. That's why it's smart to have an umbrella policy that provides extra liability insurance above the limits of a homeowner's or auto insurance policy. An umbrella policy will kick in when those coverage's have been exhausted and provide extra protection.

According to Geico.com, an umbrella policy will cover:

  • Bodily Injury Liability
  • Property Damage Liability
  • Owners of Rental Units
  • If a property owner is sued for slander, libel, false arrest or imprisonment, malicious prosecution, shock/mental anguish, and other personal liability situations.

"As Halloween approaches, make sure your home is safe and secure for trick-or-treaters. While we are talking financial liability, you are also liable for your own emotions. Save yourself from the emotional and financial stress you would face if a kid was severely hurt on your property. As the age-old saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry," says Darras.