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Boo! Halloween Lawsuits A Homeowner’s Nightmare

By Home Mortgage FOXBusiness

Trick or treaters aren’t the only spooky things happening on Halloween. You can also face a lawsuit if someone gets hurt on your property.

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While dangers lurk everywhere they are heighted on Halloween night as scores of children go door-to-door to collect candy in disguise. Not to mention vandals who use the cover of night to cause havoc and damage, particularly on Halloween. 

“There are added dangers around Halloween,” says Jim Gustin, senior property specialist, risk control at Travelers. “There are more pedestrians walking on or near roads in the dark and fire hazards with decorations.”

Tripping and falling is a big danger to protect your home from on Halloween but it’s not the only one. You also have to worry about decorations gone awry and revelers causing destruction to your property.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what insurance experts say you need to do to make sure your Halloween is full of treats and not costly tricks.

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Spooky walkways can mean scary insurance bills

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In order to protect visitors to your home this Halloween experts say you want to make sure your walkway is well lit and the lights are turned on. It may not be as scary but a long-running nightmare could happen if someone tripped in the dark and suffered an injury. It’s also a good idea to rid the area of any potential tripping hazards and to set up decorations with traffic flow in mind, says Gustin. If it’s a particularly windy day, experts say to remove or secure anything that can be turned into a flying object.

Frightful Decorations Can Cause More than Scares

During the holidays experts are out in full force warning homeowners about the dangers of dried out trees and decorations, but the same can be said about Halloween. After all, many people will forgo the light and use candles instead to create some scary ambience. But those candles, even inside a carved pumpkin, are a huge fire hazard as well as other decorations placed in the wrong place. To prevent fires, Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agents, the trade association, says to make sure pumpkins with candles are placed at a distance where it can’t be knocked over or it can’t ignite a costume. It’s also a good idea to use battery operated lights whenever possible. According to Trusted Choice, there are a variety of Jack-O-Lantern lights on the market.

Gustin of Travelers says to avoid dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper because they are all highly combustible. You also want to use lights and other electrical decorations that have been tested for safety and avoid daisy chaining extension cords when plugging them in because it can cause overheating. “Never staple, nail through or fasten electrical wires or extension cords in any way that might damage the wire or insulation. This could cause electrical shock or fire,” says Gustin.  “Plug all outdoor lights and decorations into ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to help reduce the risk of electric shock.”

Vandals’ Pranks Can Cause Damage

Preventing injuries and fires should be top of mind this Halloween, but you also have to think about vandalism. A smashed pumpkin here or there is no big deal but broken windows or damaged property can be. Brooke Gabbert, a spokeswoman for HomeAdvisor.com, says lighting will go a long toward discouraging burglars or vandals. Equipping your whole home may be expensive, but Gabbert says a cheaper alternative is motion sensor lighting. That way it won’t have to be on all night but will alert you when someone approaches and if they are up to know good, hopefully scare them away. Keeping your trees and bushes trimmed can go a long way from preventing vandalism as well.  “Overgrown trees and bushes may provide extra cover for trespassers,” says Gabbert. “An unkempt lawn may also signal the homeowner is out of town and can be an easier target for theft. “

If your home does fall victim to pranksters this Halloween assess the damage first before calling your insurance provider. You also want to know what your deductible is to ascertain if it’s worthwhile to even make the call. “If there is not a lot of damage, your deductible (the amount the individual is responsible for) may be higher than what the repairs would cost,” says Gustin. “Also, keep in mind that homeowners insurance policies are typically best utilized when something more catastrophic happens to a home, like a fire or a tree falling on the structure.”

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