Halloween is a favorite fall tradition for many U.S. families: Kids having fun dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door for candy—and parents sneaking a piece when the kids aren't looking. While the family-friendly aspects of the event get most of the attention, for some individuals, Halloween is an opportunity for causing havoc. In many cities, especially on the East Coast, Halloween and the night before are opportunities for mischief makers to perform pranks—they’re sometimes called “Mischief Night,” "Goosey Night" or “Cabbage Night."
Understandably, homeowners may have concerns about potential pranks on Halloween, including ones involving the use of rotten cabbage or rotten eggs. But even the more innocent aspects of Halloween can be a liability battleground.
Whether you’re hoping to dodge the tricks or just want to keep yourself safe for the treats on All Hallows' Eve, there are notable liability and insurance concerns for homeowners to be aware of.
Halloween Pranks and Homeowners Insurance Concerns
There are two key insurance concerns you may have when it comes to Mischief Night pranks. The first is what happens when you become the victim of a prank, such as an “egging,” aka having eggs thrown at your house or car. In fact, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, Halloween has more vandalism claims to vehicles than any other day of the year.
Fortunately, most homeowners policies will cover damage to your home by vandalism. So if the exterior or interior of your home is damaged due to vandalism, whether it's from smashed eggs, glued locks or salted lawns, homeowners insurance is likely to cover the cost of the damage.
One thing to keep in mind is that while vandalism is a serious nuisance, the financial expense of repairing vandalism may be relatively minor. As such, smaller acts of vandalism may not meet your homeowners insurance deductible. If your home insurance policy has a $500 deductible, and the damage only costs $450 to repair, you're on your own—insurance won't cover it and you'll have to foot the bill yourself.
Additionally, in some cases, you may need to file a police report and even press charges against the suspected vandals before you can make a claim. This obviously presents some difficulties, as you may not be able to determine who the vandals are without corroborating evidence, such as credible witnesses, video evidence or physical evidence connecting the perpetrator to the crime. Additionally, you may have to press charges against a neighbor’s mischievous child, which may put you in an uncomfortable situation.
But what if this goes the other way—what if your child is the prankster? Unfortunately, homeowners insurance generally won’t cover costs, and you might be forced to pay, due to intentional actions like vandalism—even if they were committed by a minor. In this case, you may be legally required to pay the victim and may be on the hook for a civil lawsuit.
Liability Caused By Others on Your Property
Besides concerns about vandalism, there may also be potential liability issues cropping up on Halloween night. On Halloween, you’ll likely have a far larger number of individuals coming onto your property than usual. As with all invited visitors, you may be held liable if someone has an accident on your property due to your negligence.
Your main concern here is “premises liability,” in which you may be liable for someone else’s injuries on your property if you are found to be at fault or negligent. Both children and adults could slip and fall on different locations of your property, but especially on the steps leading up to your front door. Make sure all pathways on your property are clear and well-lit.
The good news: Many homeowners insurance policies will cover slip-and-fall accidents to which you may be responsible, unless the accident was caused intentionally.
Additionally, you take on what is known as “ordinary negligence” when you have your porch light on with the intention of inviting trick-or-treaters onto your property. At that point, you are responsible for any potential injuries and may be required to warn of things such as slippery steps or other potential hazards. But if you make your home uninviting to guests, such as by turning the porch light off, you may be free from this liability concern. At that point, the trick-or-treaters may be considered unwanted guests and trespassers.
Additional insurance concerns on Halloween
Beyond the potential for injuries on your property or damages to your property by trick-or-treaters, there are a few concerns you may want to consider.
Real Fire in Halloween Pumpkins May Pose a Fire Risk
There's nothing quite like the glow of a real candle coming from a jack-o’-lantern, but it also can pose a very real fire risk. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are nearly 900 fires caused by holiday decorations, including pumpkins, per year. Should a jack-o’-lantern fire get out of control, your insurance will likely cover fire damages, as this is a common area of coverage under standard homeowners policies. However, you should take precautions to ensure your Halloween candles are kept safely away from flammable materials. Consider using battery-operated candles instead.
Halloween Candy or Treats May be a a Liability Concern
This may be less of a concern if it’s the candy you bought from a store, but if you’re passing out homemade candies, cookies or other treats, you may be liable for injuries due to illnesses such as allergic reactions to peanuts. Although your homeowners policy covers injuries on your property such as slip and fall, it likely won’t cover a food-related illness.
To protect yourself from potential liability, make sure the candy you pass out is handled properly and not expired. Additionally, make sure any homemade goods containing common allergens such as peanuts come with allergy warnings.
Car Accidents Involving Trick-or-Treaters
According to the National Safety Council, children are more than twice as likely to be hit and killed by a car on Halloween than on other nights of the year. Halloween presents a major safety concern if you are driving that night for any reason. However, you may want to review your state’s minimum car insurance coverage requirements. All states except Florida require bodily injury liability coverage, but most states’ minimums may not be enough to cover a more extensive injury for which you may be liable.