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Premises Liability and Halloween

Whether you know it by Halloween, All Saints Eve, or another name, October 31st is definitely the spookiest day of the year, filled with fun, thrills, and chills. Many people across Oklahoma love to celebrate the holiday and the mild weather throughout October with trips to pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and of course, haunted houses. But there’s nothing scarier than an unexpected and painful injury during what should have been a fun visit to a Halloween attraction. That’s where premises liability and Halloween intersect.

Assumption of Risk: Premises Liability and Halloween

If you are injured in a haunted house, it can be much more difficult to get compensation for your injuries than an injury acquired somewhere else due to something called “assumption of risk.”

Anyone going to a haunted attraction can reasonably assume it’s going to be scary. In fact, you pay to be scared! So injuries caused by fear, like heart attacks or hitting your head after fainting, are generally not going to be eligible for compensation because you willingly took on that risk.

However, fear-based injuries are not the only kind that may occur at a haunted attraction. If you were injured because of dangerous or negligent conditions not included in the assumed risks inside a haunted house, you may be eligible for compensation, even if you signed a waiver before entering. When it comes to premises liability and Halloween, the burden is typically on the owners or operators of a property to ensure that all visitors know the risks they face.

Haunted House Injuries

Haunted houses are dark, making it difficult to see tripping hazards and other dangers. And because they do not operate year-round, they may be hastily constructed with weak walls, uneven floors, exposed nails, and missing or broken guardrails, to name but a few hazards. Other potential dangers inside a haunted house that may cause injuries include:

• Exposed extension cords
• Unsecured props
• Overaggressive cast members
• Insufficient ventilation or exits
• Insufficient lights and/or strobing lights

Haunted house operators who fail to meet the safety codes required by law or who fail to warn visitors about all the potential hazards they may encounter may be held for injuries suffered as a result.

What to Do If You are Injured at a Haunted House

Most professionally run Halloween attractions, whether they’re haunted houses or commercial pumpkin patches, will carry liability insurance. When you are injured, you can file a claim for your injuries against their insurance policy, but for your best chance of proving your claim, you should follow these steps after an injury:

1. Take pictures of the accident scene, including the hazards that caused your injury.
2. Speak to any witnesses and get their contact information.
3. Speak to the manager of the venue and file an incident report.
4. Seek medical attention and inform the medical staff how you received the injury.
5. Get in touch with a personal injury attorney at Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers to discuss your potential claim.

Making Your Home Safe for Trick-or-Treaters

The responsibility of a property owner to make their property safe for visitors goes not just for haunted house operators, but also for regular homeowners. If you’re expecting visitors on Halloween, including trick-or-treaters, and a child or guest is injured on your property, you may be held liable for their injuries. You’ll reduce these risks by being aware of how premises liability and Halloween hosts are connected.

Here’s how to protect yourself and others by making your property safe for trick-or-treaters this year.

• Clear your sidewalk, yard, and porch of leaves and any tripping hazards that may not be visible in the dark, such as hoses, extension cords, toys, or lawn tools.
• Ensure the outside of your home is well-lit by replacing any dim bulbs on your outdoor lights.
• Firmly tie down decorations so that they can’t fall over or blow away, and make sure they aren’t placed somewhere they could cause a tripping hazard or startle a visitor enough to accidentally injure themselves (such as by falling on stairs).
• Keep pets indoors and away from the door when greeting trick-or-treaters.
• Remove fire hazards by replacing the candles in your jack-o-lantern with flameless LED versions.
• Make sure your homeowner/renters insurance is up to date, especially the personal liability coverage.

Halloween Activity Safety Tips

No matter how you plan to spend the holiday, keep these tips in mind. Consider sharing them with your friends and children to ensure everyone has a safe and fun Halloween.

• Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes with good traction.
• Avoid using flammable material in your costume.
• Avoid masks that limit your vision or ability to breathe.
• Consider including reflective material to make yourself more visible in the dark.
• Inspect candy before opening and eating. Throw away any candy if the wrapper appears tampered with.
• Closely monitor any children in your group.
• Arrive to any activity sober of drugs and alcohol.
• Follow all posted safety rules at any attraction you visit.
• Always follow clearly marked paths.
• Be conscious of your own limits and avoid activities that may aggravate a pre-existing medical condition.

From all of us at Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, have a happy Halloween! And remember, premises liability and Halloween don’t mix. If you or a loved one suffered injuries while visiting a Halloween attraction, we’re ready to help, and your consultation is always free.