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Property owners can be responsible for trick-or-treating injuries

Halloween traditions have changed since many of us were younger and went door-to-door throughout our neighborhood and beyond in search of treats. Safety concerns have resulted in more parties and group events. However, many Bergen County kids (often with parents in tow) still go trick-or-treating.

Homeowners have an obligation to keep their property as safe as possible for visitors. This is particularly important on Halloween when a larger-than-normal number of people will be visiting. If homeowners turn on their porch or other outdoor lights on Halloween, that's considered a signal that they welcome trick-or-treaters. That means that anyone who is injured on their property is considered an invited guest rather than a trespasser. It also means that the bar is lower for anyone holding the property owner liable for an injury.

Even though homeowners bear financial and legal responsibility for any hazards, such as cracked sidewalks or loose bricks, there are still things that you and your kids should be cautious about to help prevent a fun night of trick-or-treating from turning into an unwanted trip to the emergency room.

Stay away from homes that are not lit up or otherwise appear to be welcome to trick-or-treaters. Besides the trespassing issue we spoke of, a darkened yard and house can make it more difficult to spot tripping and other hazards. Carrying a flashlight can't hurt.

Be careful of anything outside the home that appears to be a display involving something like a witch, ghost or scarecrow. Some people enjoy adding some adventure to the night for their trick-or-treaters by dressing as a display and then coming to life to scare young ones. However, a startled child can easily take a tumble down the stairs or into a lighted jack-o'-lantern.

Whenever you go onto someone's property, keep an eye out for slipping, tripping and other hazards. Even if homeowners keep their property in good repair, one of our sudden New Jersey rainfalls, snowstorms or wind gusts can quickly make pavement slick or filled with debris.

If an unfortunate event does occur, you may be able to seek compensation for any medical bills and other damages through the homeowners' insurance company. If the insurance policy doesn't cover the damages, you may be able to pursue litigation against the homeowners themselves. A New Jersey personal injury attorney can provide guidance on the best way to proceed.

Source: Insurance Journal, "A Guide to Homeowners’ Liability for Injury to Trick or Treaters," Christopher J. Boggs, accessed Oct. 20, 2015

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