Boo! How to avoid a Halloween lawsuit

News, Crime, DUI

Halloween: a night for costumes, trick-or-treating, ghostly thrills, candy, and innocent fun. But in the eerie dark of All Hallows’ Eve, everything from poorly lit walkways to jack-o’-lantern flames to the family dog can pose a safety risk for trick-or-treaters and homeowners.

So for those into safety—and interested in avoiding a terrifying Halloween lawsuit—here are some tips to keep those superheroes, cowgirls, and goblins free of harm at your home and on the streets.

Check your insurance policies

Opening up your home to visitors, including trick-or-treaters on your front porch, can expose you to potential insurance claims and lawsuits. Check with your insurance agent in advance to make sure your liability is adequately covered on both your homeowner’s policy and your car insurance—and consider adding umbrella coverage if you don’t already have it.

Light the night

Lit candles and luminaries add an otherworldly glow to your home, but they also pose a fire hazard, the National Fire Protection Association cautions. Lit candles lining your front walk or poised in jack-o’-lanterns are easily knocked over by eager candy-seekers, who risk injuring themselves or starting a fire.

In lieu of real candles, opt for LED tea lights or wind a string of orange lights around your front porch. Use only lights tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Miniature lights are preferable for their cool-burning bulbs. If you have a long walkway or driveway, turn on your regular outdoor lights, too, so trick-or-treaters can easily make out the path to the door.

Clear the way

Walk the path a trick-or-treater would take from the sidewalk to your front door, and make sure the route is free from obstructions or hazards. Repair uneven walkway stones, porch boards, or loose porch railings that may pose a safety threat to youngsters. If adding bone-chilling yard decorations like witches, tombstones, or fake cobwebs, be sure that the decorations are well clear of all pathways.

Clean up the yard

Envision young trick-or-treaters, fueled by adrenaline and candy, racing from yard to yard and house to house. Suddenly, those unraked leaves, dead branches, overgrown hedges and lawn holes become potential hazards. Store gardening tools, bikes, and hoses out of the yard and a safe distance from all walkways.

Take fire safety indoors

Hosting a grown-up Halloween party? Check all smoke alarms to help make sure they’re in good working order. Also, keep decorations like crepe paper away from open flames.

Lock up Spot and Tabby

KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States, warns, “The things that make Halloween a treat for people—noises, smells, trick-or-treaters at the door and people in costumes—can overwhelm many pets.” A frightened pet can potentially bite, or might flee through a door opened for trick-or-treaters.

Theisen’s advice to pet owners: “While you’re enjoying the fun, make sure your pets have a safe haven in a room where they can feel safe, comfortable and relaxed—and that they are tucked away from any hazards.” In addition, make sure that all of your pets are wearing tags with current IDs (and consider microchipping your cat or dog).

Drive slowly and defensively

Sadly, Halloween is also the most dangerous day of the year for young pedestrians: children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than other days of the year. While driving, prepare for children to run into the street from behind parked cars. Plan for children clad in black costumes walking in the dark with their backs facing traffic. Expect that trick-or-treaters aren’t going to see you because their costumes obscure their visibility. Drive slowly and defensively, alert for children and pedestrians crossing the streets. Enter and exit driveways and alleyways unhurriedly and carefully.

And whatever you do, avoid drinking and driving, both for the sake of trick-or-treaters and to avoid the DUI patrols, which will authorities will almost certainly ramp up for the occasion.

Halloween is a thrilling night for children and adults alike. Haunted houses and Halloween decorations may be scary, but avoiding an accident with a young visitor will avert a true Fright Night. By preparing your home and yourself, you’re guaranteed a safe and “spooktacular” holiday.