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When can homeowners be held liable for Halloween injuries?

For some people, Halloween is a chance to go all out with decorations, costumes and scary pranks. When they get a little too caught up in making their home a Halloween adventure for trick-or-treaters, serious injuries can occur. Homeowners can also be held liable for them, no matter how well-meaning they might have been.

If a homeowner turns their porch light on Halloween night, they're typically assumed to be welcoming trick-or-treaters on to their property. Since these trick-or-treaters (and their parents or other escorts) are considered to be invited, the homeowner is responsible for taking reasonable care to prevent injury to them. Even without outside lights on, a homeowner might have a difficult time proving that kids walking across their front yard on Halloween were trespassing.

A homeowner may be found legally liable if their negligence causes an injury that results in damages (such as medical bills) on any day of the year. This could include leaving a rake under a pile of leaves where someone could step on it or not fixing or roping off a hole in the ground.

However, if a yard is filled with Halloween decorations that are designed to pop out randomly and scare people, they are risking injury on multiple fronts. A person might not see a decoration or prop in the dark and run into it or trip on it. If it moves unexpectedly, it could injure someone. If it's designed to be frightening, someone could be so startled or scared that they fall or otherwise injure themselves.

People have even been known to sit motionless in their yard like a scarecrow or other Halloween figure and then jump up and scare kids. It's all fun and games until a kid falls down and knocks out his front teeth.

If you are trick-or-treating with your child, it's wise to keep an eye out for hidden dangers and surprises outside of homes -- as well as when the door is opened. If you're sending your kids out with someone else or on their own, make sure they're cautious -- particularly around homes with an abundance of outdoor decorations. If your child suffers an injury that you believe a homeowner could or should have prevented, it may be wise to determine what your options are for seeking compensation to cover medical expenses and other costs.

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