October 21, 2013, Pittsburgh, PA – We know the drill: wear bright clothing, toss the unwrapped candy, and steer clear of houses with no lights. We've become experts at the "rules" of Halloween for our children, but it's easy to forget that adults have important responsibilities too.
Halloween is one of the only nights of the year when children are encouraged to walk onto strangers' properties, and not only that, to take candy from them. Homeowners are responsible for ensuring that their walkways, yards, and homes are safe for everyone they welcome onto their property.
"Careless oversights by property owners can quickly turn into dangerous situations for trick-or-treaters," says Attorney Edgar Snyder, who has helped people hurt in accidents for more than 40 years. "By protecting guests from injury, homeowners are also protecting themselves from liability and possible legal consequences."
Homeowners are responsible for keeping their property safe. For those who rent their homes, the responsibility typically falls on the landlord or management company. Renters should read their lease agreement carefully, however. There can always be exceptions, especially for rented single-family units.
Follow these tips to protect your guests—and yourself—before turning on your porch light this Halloween:
If you host a Halloween party that includes alcohol and minors under age 21, your responsibility extends even further. Unfortunately, parents are often the ones supplying alcohol to their underage children and friends. Under Pennsylvania's "social host" law, these parents could be held responsible for a minor's drunk driving accident—without even being in the car.
"Many parents mistakenly think, ‘if they're going to drink anyway, at least they're with me,'" says Attorney Snyder. "But serving alcohol to minors is never a good idea. In my years of practice I have seen the terrible aftermath of drunk driving accidents and the devastation it causes families."
Pennsylvania common law defines adults who serve alcohol at private functions as "social hosts." If a social host serves alcohol to a minor, he or she could be held responsible if that minor is injured or injures someone else due to intoxication.
In addition, any adult who serves alcohol to a minor can face criminal charges, fines, and up to a year of jail time. For a party host, fines can quickly add up: a minimum of $1,000 for the first conviction and potentially up to $2,500 for every additional minor present at the party.
Edgar Snyder & Associates encourages all parents and teens to sign the Safe & Sober Pledge to show their commitment to celebrating responsibly this holiday. Each person who signs the pledge is also entered to win a $100 Visa gift card.
In addition, the law firm offers a Halloween Safety Infographic with practical tips for trick-or-treaters and parents to stay safe this October 31st.
Edgar Snyder & Associates is a law firm representing injury victims and people with disabilities, with offices in Altoona, Ebensburg, Erie, Johnstown, and Pittsburgh.
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