While taking your children for trick or treat, you cautiously approach a neighbor’s house. It looks fantastic, in keeping with the spirit of the spooky holiday, with strobe lights, shadows and a thick mist coming from a fog machine. Suddenly, someone in a ghastly mask leaps out from the shadows. It startles you, and you trip on a cord hidden by the fog and darkness, and wind up in the hospital with a broken leg or head injury.
Perhaps it doesn’t play out exactly that way, but if your Halloween adventure ends in pain and suffering, you may wonder how liable your neighbor is for your medical bills.
Your neighbor’s obligation to you
Halloween is a spooky time, and it’s all in good fun until someone gets hurt. While it is commendable that your neighbors want to get into the spirit of the season, as soon as they invite you onto their property, they are responsible for making your visit as reasonably safe as possible. Those spooky decorations and the offer of candy, as well as a lit porch light, may legally qualify as an invitation in Georgia.
Because you have your children with you, the property owner may have an even greater obligation to ensure there are no hazards that could cause harm. Some of the steps a homeowner should take to prevent accidents during Halloween include the following:
- Adequate lighting may detract from the mood your neighbor is trying to create, but if you can’t see where you are putting your feet, you may not see a tripping hazard.
- Tripping hazards may include decorations, an uneven sidewalk, a hole or a dip in the ground that your neighbor does not mark with a warning.
- Dog owners may want their pets to be part of the fun, but the confusion of unfamiliar people coming onto the property at night may cause the most docile dog to react with aggression and bite.
- Your neighbor should refrain from pranks that may cause you to trip and fall or otherwise suffer injury.
- Special effects like strobe lights and fog may produce dangerous reactions in those with medical conditions, such as seizure disorders or asthma.
Of course, you will want to do your part to remain safe by carrying a flashlight, avoiding houses where the porch light is off, and wearing a costume that allows you to see clearly and walk without tripping. However, if your neighbor invites you onto his or her property without taking reasonable precautions for your well-being, you may wish to seek advice about your legal rights.