The purpose of this article is not to give you a sugar buzz kill, but rather to give a brief overview of the possible personal injury and accident cases which could arise on Halloween. We want you and your children to be safe, just as we want to protect our own children.
As a child, I remember trick or treating for hours, year after year. As a candy lover, this was my favorite holiday. It is one, however, which I now realize after having handled more than 4,500 personal injury and accident cases, that comes with many risks.
1. Your neighbor may want to molest your child. Ok this sounds extreme, but there are registered child molesters in many local neighborhoods. Check your local, state or national registry before knocking on their door. The national registry is http://www.nsopw.gov. Also, just be aware that the registry only lists those sexual predators who were caught and convicted. According to a U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, an estimated 200,000+ people are sexually assaulted every year, or one every 2 minutes. Every year, I represent many victims of child molestation and investigate the cause or contributing factors which could have prevented the assaults.
2. Your neighbor may have inadequate lighting. Sure, it’s exciting to see a porch light on when trick or treating. It’s the unspoken sign that the homeowner has candy and acts as an invitation to knock on the door for your treat. On your route to the candy beacon, be careful of the path to and from the door. Inadequate lighting could hide dangers in and around the house, such as broken sidewalks or driveways, car oil spills, or dark objects on the ground in your path which could create a tripping or slipping hazard, even a pumpkin in the shadow.
3. You or your child could get hit by a car. I remember my zigzag method to trick or treating. My friends and I didn’t want to miss a house. We had a plan: go street by street, zigzagging to complete the block, and then hit the next street. Be aware that there are cars that could come at any time and strike you. With the increase in distracted driving, like texting while driving, you may have a greater risk of being struck by a car and sustaining a serious injury or even getting killed. Just be very careful while crossing the street and remember the old saying that you should always look both ways before you cross, and keep looking as you cross. Children may get excited about running to the next house and may not stop to think that a car could come quickly and strike them. Use flashlights or reflective clothing at night to help light the way and alert motorists of your presence.
4. Your neighbors don’t care about your child’s food allergy. The act of trick or treating is a quick one. Get in, get out, and move on to the next house. If you have a food allergy, like a peanut or food dye, be aware that there are minimal controls over what your neighbor puts in your trick or treat bag. While you may tell your neighbor that you have an allergy, you may not be able to trust that there is no cross contamination. If your child has a food allergy, you are probably better off letting them have fun trick or treating, then switch their candy out at home with ‘safer’ uncontaminated candy from the store.
5. Your neighbor’s dog could bite you or your child. We see quite a bit of dog bite claims in our practice and nearly every case involves a dog that never bit anyone before. Florida, for example, still holds the dog owner liable for damage caused by the dog even if it was the first offense. Don’t trust the dog owner that their dog is ‘safe’ and ‘never bit anyone before’. It has minimal relevance as to whether the dog poses a danger to you.
6. You or your child’s costume may not be safe. Costumes may be flammable, pose a choking risk, may be a tripping hazard if too long, could cause heat stroke or dehydration, and could provide a suffocation risk. While costume related injuries are not as common as some other Halloween dangers, make sure your child is wearing a costume that fits properly and has adequate breathing room and ventilation.
7. Your candle burning in your pumpkin could kill you. Would you leave an oven on in your house and go to sleep? Of course you would not. Then why would you leave an actual fire burning outside or inside your house in a pumpkin? A burning candle can quickly go from a pretty pumpkin illuminator to a death trap if the fire spreads to an occupied dwelling. I’ve represented families of those killed or injured by house and mobile home fires, and many could have been prevented. Make sure to blow out any lit candles before you go to sleep and do not leave lit candles unattended.
8. You or your child could be allergic to your face paint. Face paint and makeup could pose a danger to those with sensitive skin or allergies. If you are not sure how you will react or if you have an allergy, test the makeup or paint on a small area and see if you react before applying it everywhere.
9. Your neighbors may have poisoned you or your child’s candy or put razor blades in them. Well, probably not, but you should still check your candy. Do you know if the candy your neighbor gave you was from 2008? Since there are no controls over what your neighbor gives you, unlike regulation of candy in grocery stores, make sure to check your candy to make sure it is not expired or is otherwise still fresh, and that it is sealed on all sides without any puncture marks or evidence of tampering.
10. The store where you buy your candy may be unsafe. As Halloween gets closer, it seems the mess around the candy aisle and costume area gets progressively more dangerous. Costumes left on the floor may create a slip and fall danger, as with loose candy spills or objects left on the floors. Use caution when shopping and let the store clerks know if you see any tripping or slipping hazard.
I represent hundreds of victims of personal injury, crime, accidents and wrongful death every year. Although I understand that accidents happen, I never want to see anyone get hurt. With more caution, I hope we can lessen the accidents this Halloween so our children can focus on what’s important: getting their candy and enjoying it!
Jason Turchin, Esq. is a Victim’s Rights Attorney who has handled more than 4,500 personal injury, accident, crime and wrongful death cases. He has represented clients from all over the United States and is admitted to practice in Florida, New York and Washington DC, as well as many Federal bars throughout the United States. He is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Florida Bar Association, National Crime Victim’s Bar Association, New York State Bar Association, Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society, Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and many other organizations. Jason and his wife Kira are also Diamond Society Members of Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation and are the founders of Betty Cares, an organization focusing on assisting the caregivers of children who are injured, sick and disabled. More information on Betty Cares can be found at www.BettyCares.org. More information on Jason and his practice can be found at www.VictimAid.com or by calling (888) 99-VICTIM or simply dialing **VICTIM from your mobile phone.