Trick-or-Treating Injuries: What You Need to Know About Liability

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Trick-or-Treating Injuries: What You Need to Know About Liability

 

Halloween should be a time of silly costumes, lots of candy, and laughing children. Unfortunately, negligence on the part of a homeowner can quickly turn your laughter to tears. If you or your child are injured while trick-or-treating on Halloween, the owner of the property where the injury occurred could be liable.

Understand what constitutes negligence at Halloween so that you can determine whether you have a case against the homeowner.

Negligence: Does It Exist?

Proven negligence is the cornerstone of a personal injury case, and negligence can occur when you are entering someone else's property on Halloween night. The following points outline the basic components of negligence in a personal injury case.

Reasonable Duty

Property owners have a duty of care to make sure that their behavior upon their property does not put others at an unreasonable risk. There may also be special duties that are in place due to local laws or statutes. For example, many municipalities require that homeowner's maintain their properties to certain standards.

Breach of Duty

A breach occurs when the homeowner either acts in a way that endangers those on the property, or if they fail to perform the duty they are legally required to do. For example, if a municipality requires that homeowners keep walkways clear and safe, then failure to sweep up fallen leaves before trick-or-treaters arrive, which results in slippery conditions or hidden hazards, may qualify as a breach of duty.

Resulting Damages

The existence and breach of duty alone may not be enough to build a case upon if no lasting harm was caused. For example, if your child tripped over a garden hose left across the homeowner's porch, but suffered little more than a bruised ego, no harm exists.

On the other hand, if your child experiences a broken bone that resulted in medical costs, missed school, and reduced quality of life, then you may have cause to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Premise Liability: How Does It Affect You?

As you can see, negligence is fully dependent upon whether the homeowner had a duty to the trick-or-treaters that visited their property for the night's festivities. To further develop your case, you must also consider premise liability.

Reasonable Cause

You must have reasonable cause to file a lawsuit. If a homeowner has made adequate concessions to alert visitors of potential hazards, you may not have reasonable cause. This means that the homeowner may not be liable if your child trips over uneven pavement if it is highlighted with caution paint and the walkway is well lit.

Another example where reasonable cause may not exist is if a previous visitor to the property just spilled a beverage that resulted in slippery conditions, and there is no way the homeowner could yet be aware of it.

Invitee vs. Trespasser

Chances are that you and your child did not have an explicit invitation to enter the property. In other words, the property owner did not extend a personal verbal or written invitation to you to trick-or-treat. As a general rule, trespassers can't sue for injuries that occur on a property in which they were not invited.

The one exception is with children; homeowners must make a reasonable effort to ensure their property doesn't entice children to visit.

During Halloween, it can be determined that the child and their chaperones were invited onto the property if a porch light is left on or if Jack-o-lanterns are flickering on the walkway. This is because Halloween tradition in the United States typically dictates that porch lights and lit-up pumpkins indicate that the homeowner welcomes trick-or-treaters.

If you or your child was injured while trick-or-treating, then you need to take steps to ensure your damages are covered by the responsible party. Contact Clearfield & Associates to discuss your situation.

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