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Your right to be safe at Halloween

When October rolls around, you may hear many people exclaim that it is their favorite time of year. In fact, you may be among those for whom Halloween falls second only to the Christmas holidays on your list of favorites. No one enjoys a haunted house or spooky lawn decorations as much as you, and you look forward to taking your children trick-or-treating so you can see some of the elaborate themes in your neighborhood.

When your neighbors decorate for Halloween, by law, they have a responsibility to make their properties reasonably safe for visitors. On trick-or-treat night, you are a visitor, and South Carolina law will likely see those enticing decorations as an implicit invitation to enter the property. A homeowner who does not take precautions to protect you from injury may be liable for any accidents.

Trip-or-treat?

While decorations like tombstones and pumpkins may look delightful in the daytime, at night they may provide a tripping hazard, especially if the yard is not well lit. A homeowner who stretches extension cords or decorations across the path to the porch may be responsible if you or your child trip and injure yourself. Additionally, low lighting that adds to a spooky atmosphere may hide cracks in the sidewalk, holes in the ground or low shrubbery that could cause you to fall.

Some homeowners like to add a personal touch to their Halloween decorations on trick-or-treat night. This may include a fog machine, strobe lights or a costumed ghoul who jumps out of the dark to scare visitors. These, too, may result in falls, but fog and strobe lights may produce a dangerous reaction if you have asthma or a seizure disorder.

Trick-or-treat is not for pets

A neighbor with a dog would be wise to keep the animal confined while trick-or-treaters come and go. Dogs can be territorial, and when you approach in the dark wearing a costume, even an animal who knows you well may become confused or frightened enough to bite. If this happens to you or your child, you have every right to seek the legal options that will help you pursue the compensation you need for your medical bills, pain and suffering.

Halloween is a time for fun, and good-natured scares are to be expected. However, if your neighbor's efforts neglect to consider the reasonable safety of you and other visitors, you may have cause to take action in civil court.

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