Slip and fall accidents caused by costumes, yard decorations, dim lighting, and spooky special effects are a leading cause of injury on Halloween. Homeowners may be liable for fall injuries that occur on their property.
Beware of Halloween Falls
Halloween is the one night of the year when people can freely transform their home and property into a spooky haunted house with special effects. Yards are filled with ghosts and monsters, graveyard tombstones, creepy spider webs, artificial fog, flashing strobe lights, and eerie sounds. For most homeowners, Halloween represents a fun-filled night with trick-or-treaters in elaborate costumes, children with buckets of candy, and neighborhood parties with food and spirits. However, some homeowners may find themselves in a Halloween nightmare when slip and fall accidents happen on their property.
Halloween poses a significant risk for slip and fall accidents that can cause serious, even fatal injuries. In Chicago, bad weather often creates slippery roads and sidewalks that put Halloween pedestrians in danger of broken bones and head injuries. Trick-or-treaters and party-goers dressed in long costumes, floppy shoes, large-brimmed hats, hooded capes, and Halloween masks can easily take a tumble on icy sidewalks and stairs. Children are particularly vulnerable to falls caused by improperly fitted costumes that touch or drag the ground, shoes without traction, and large hats, hoods, and masks that impair vision.
- Provide adequate lighting near driveways, sidewalks, and stairs
- Mark pathways and stairs with reflective materials
- Place lawn decorations 3-5 feet away from footpaths, sidewalks, and stairs
- Keep trip hazards like extension cords, cables, and hoses away from walkways
- Avoid using smoke or fog machines near walkways, stairs, and porches
- Prevent foot traffic through the front yard and grassy areas
For additional safety, homeowners should use battery-powered votive candles instead of real candles in jack-o-lanterns, pumpkins, and outdoor decorations to prevent fire hazards. Real candles and other fire sources pose serious injury risks if objects get knocked down by anxious trick-or-treaters in costumes or blown down by high winds. A personal injury lawyer in Chicago frequently sees severe burn injuries to children caused by candles used in Halloween decorations.
Liability for Slip and Fall Injuries
When a slip and fall accident occurs on private property, the property owner can be held legally responsible for injuries under certain conditions. To win a slip and fall lawsuit in court, the injury victim (plaintiff) must prove that the property owner (defendant) was negligent in keeping the property free of fall hazards. For a homeowner to be found liable for injuries, one of the following three conditions must exist:
- The owner must have created or caused the dangerous property conditions
- The owner knew about the dangerous property conditions but failed to fix them
- The owner knew about the dangerous conditions, but failed to warn visitors of the dangers
If one of these conditions is true, a liability claim for injuries caused by a fall on the premises is often handled through the property owner’s homeowner’s insurance. However, if the limit on the homeowner’s policy is not enough to cover the liability for damages, the property owner may be held personally responsible for any medical expenses related to injuries from the fall.
Slip and fall injury cases are often complex due to the nature and severity of injuries sustained. Talking to a personal injury lawyer in Chicago before filing an insurance claim can ensure a better outcome for the injury victim because the lawyer can usually often negotiate a better settlement.
Slip and fall lawsuits are often settled out of court when parties can come to an agreement on a payment amount to cover the injury victim’s damages. The settlement process usually involves a personal injury lawyer in Chicago that oversees various stages of the process including the complaint and summons, the defendant’s answer, and discovery. Settlements are usually reached during mediation or settlement conferences that take place near the end of the discovery phase.
Depending on the complexity of the lawsuit and the completion of each phase of the settlement process, it may take several months or years to reach a settlement. Since slip and fall lawsuits often involve complicated injury liability issues and complex negotiations between parties, preparing for a court trial with a personal injury lawyer is often necessary in case a settlement agreement can not be reached.
Homeowners and businesses have a legal responsibility to ensure a safe environment for visitors and invited guests on their premises. When Halloween rolls around, property owners are expected to protect children who are trick-or-treating, as well as adults who are attending parties, from dangerous slip and fall accidents. Although many slip and falls result in cuts, scrapes, and bruises, some result in concussions and head injuries with haunting consequences.