Halloween: A witches’ brew of liability issues for homeowners

Happy Halloween, folks! Looking for a last minute costume idea? Check out these 9 insurance-related Halloween costumes. While those might be fine for adults, we hope you can be a little more imaginative with your kids.
We’re recycling some Halloween safety advice from one of our prior posts:
Any injuries that occur on your property can be considered your liability – whether it’s a little Cinderella who trips on her gown or a vandal who breaks his leg while egging your house. If party-goers drink too much alcohol while at your house, you may be held liable for any injuries that occur when they drive home. And if your teen’s Halloween “pranks” result in any property damage, you might have parental liability for the cost of that damage, depending on your state law. Other risks you may encounter include vandalism to your home or your auto and home fires triggered by candles and decorations or overloaded electrical outlets.
Keeping kids safe:

  • Equip kids with flashlights. Add day-glo or illuminating trim on their costumes.
    Make sure costumes are fire-safe and flame-resistant.
  • Ensure costumes don’t impair vision or present a tripping hazard.
  • Masks can limit visibility – colorful face paints are a cute, creative, and safer alternative.
  • Make sure kids are dressed warmly enough and have comfortable, non-slip footwear.
  • Costume accessories and props should be short , pliable, and soft – no hard, long, pointy, or sharp objects
  • Inspect all candy before kids eat it. Be alert for choking hazards and watch for anything that is loose or unwrapped.
  • Don’t let kids walk while eating candy on a stick – very dangerous if they trip.
  • Don’t let kids eat homemade treats unless they were made by someone you know very well
  • Stick to familiar neighborhoods and familiar houses
  • Kids shouldn’t enter any homes unless they know the neighbors well
  • Kids without adults should keep in groups
  • Walk on sidewalks.
  • Complete one side of the street, cross carefully, and complete the other side.
  • Use cross walks and crossing lights whenever possible.
  • Drive with great caution over the weekend, particularly after dark – excited little goblins may dart out from anywhere.

Other safety matters

  • When decorating, avoid candles – use LED lights and battery-powered lights instead.
  • Take care not to overload electrical circuits with lights.
  • Paper and dried plant decorations can easily ignite. Keep them away from flames, lights, and electrical cords.
  • Keep porches and walkways well lit and free of debris and clutter that might be tripping hazards; Put reflective tape on your steps and along your walkway.
  • Don’t forget about your pets – they could be upset by the unusual activity and may be skittish. Keep them inside and away from the door so they don’t frighten or nip at your guests.
  • Be careful not to let your pets eat candy, which can be toxic to them.
  • Park your car in a garage, if possible. Mischief makers may egg your house or car.
  • Lock up bicycles, gas grills and other outdoor valuables.

Halloween vandalism can range from “mild” pranks to more serious and willful property damage. A well-lit house and motion-activated lights may help to protect your property. If you have a garage, keep you car locked up. If you don’t, you might want to check your car before bed or very early in the morning – that way, if your car has experienced any “mischief” such as a dousing of shaving cream, silly string, eggs, or other food matter, you may be able to hose it away before the sun bakes it in. Some of these substances can cause scratches or dents; others can be corrosive to your paint. Pressurized water from your hose is your best clean-up ally.
Call your agent
If you should suffer any damage to your property or have any accidents during Halloween weekend, file a claim as soon as possible to get the claim process in motion. Be ready with the details of where and when the event occurred, along with the names and addresses of any injured parties or witnesses to the event. If there is damage to your property, report it to the police, take photos, and record the details so you won’t forget them later.

Hurricane Sandy Tool kit: Preparation, tracking & insurance resources

The following are resources to help you track and prepare for Sandy – along with insurance related resources should you incur any damage. We’ve also included some good info gleaned from past hurricanes, if still relevant.
Storm Tracking
MSNBC Hurricane Tracker
Storm Central 2012 at the NOAAA
National Hurricane Center Facebook
Weather Underground – including co-founder
Dr. Jeff Masters WunderBlog
New England Emergency Resources
CT: @CTDEMHSConnecticut Deparment of Emergency Services
MA: @MassEMAMA Emergency Management Agency
ME: @MaineEMAMaine Emergency Management Agency
NH: @NHgovReadyNH
NY: @NYSDHSESNY Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services
RI: @RhodeIslandEMARI Emergency Management Agency
VT: @vemvtVT Emergency Management
Hurricane Preparation
It Is Not Too Late to Conduct a Home Inventory In Preparation for Hurricane Irene – Still relevant info
Common Sense Advice Before & After a Hurricane
Preparing an effective evacuation plan
Checklist for protecting your technology before & during a hurricane
Disaster Planning for Small Businesses – a checklist from the
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which covers key steps for preparation, as well as an overview of related insurance issues that you need to consider.
Hurricane Preparation Tips and Disaster Preparedness – from the Insurance Information Institute
Hurricane Safety Checklists – from the Red Cross
Insurance Matters
Homeowners Insurance Policies in Many Coastal States Affected by Sandy Have Hurricane Deductibles
Hurricane & Wind Storm Deductibles
Claims reporting: Direct links to Renaissance Alliance insurance partners claims reporting pages – list includes 40 of the state’s major insurers. If your insurer is not listed here, contact your independent agent or the Mass Division of insurance’s main number (617) 521-7794 or the Consumer Information Hotline (617) 521-7794.
Tips for claims reporting: What consumers should know when faced with a loss – Important, but sometimes difficult, filing a claim can be one of the most frustrating processes during a crisis or following a major disaster. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers tips for what your insurance company needs to help you avoid problems getting your claims paid.