How does your insurance feel about Halloween?
Scenario 1: Your 8-year-old next-door neighbor cuts across your front lawn and trips — maybe on leaves or her own feet. It's unclear because it's dark outside. She falls and breaks an arm. Are you liable?
You may be held liable. You are covered under the liability portion of standard home insurance policies. In order for that coverage to be triggered, the homeowner must be found negligent.
To help protect you from a large Liability suit, most home insurance policies have no-faultmedical payments coverage, which will pay up to a specified amount for medical treatment if someone who doesn't live at your house is injured on your property. Coverage limits for this are usually about $1,000 to $5,000.
Scenario 2: A crowd of pint-sized ghouls and goblins gathers on your porch steps. One of the little monsters starts pushing to the front. The rest push back. She falls off the porch and breaks a wrist. Are you liable?
The burden is on you to prove you weren't at fault. Did you do everything possible to prevent the accident? Did you have the children form a line? Does your porch have railings? If you are found liable, most home insurance policies will cover you.
Determine whether you have enough liability coverage for this kind of accident. You want to have enough to cover the value of your assets. Most basic home insurance policies have liability coverage starting at $100,000, but buying $300,000 in liability coverage is wise, and if you're doing a haunted house I strongly recommend carrying at least $500k, at least bump it up for the duration of the season.
(Purchasing an umbrella policy is the easiest and least expensive way to increase your liability coverage. For about $200 to $350 a year, you can get $1 million of liability coverage above and beyond your auto or home insurance coverage, if you REALLY wanna cover your assets.)
Scenario 3: Neighborhood kids celebrate Halloween by trashing your house. Their arsenal includes eggs, spray paint, stink bombs and rolls of toilet paper. Are you covered for the cleanup and the repair of any damages?
Yes, most home insurance policies cover vandalism. First, determine whether the damage cost is more than your home insurance deductible. Or was there more nuisance than damage?
If the culprits are caught, your insurance company could seek payment for damages from them (or their parents' insurance companies) under a practice called subrogation. Whether your insurer decides to do this depends on the state in which you live and the circumstances of the vandalism.
Scenario 4: You throw a big bash and an intoxicated guest crashes his or her car on the way home. Are you liable?
Maybe. Many states have laws or legal precedents that hold a host responsible for any injuries or property damage done by a guest who has left a party after consuming too much alcohol. A party host can be held responsible for payment of medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost time from work and claims for a wrongful death, which can result in huge monetary settlements.
Scenario 5: On Halloween night, police catch your 12-year-old son and his friends pelting a house with rocks. Windows are broken. Are you liable for your son's actions?
Whether you are held liable depends on your state's laws. In some states, parents are considered vicariously liable for the actions of their resident minor children. Home insurance policies do not cover intentional acts that inflict injury on someone else!
Scenario 6: A local hooligan saunters onto your lawn. You kick him off your property, using unreasonable force, and his leg is broken.
If that is found to be an intentional act involving excessive force by you, it's likely your home insurance policy would not cover you. The courts also might take into consideration that by turning on the lights and handing out candy you extended an open invitation to your property. You can ask someone to leave your property, but do it carefully and use only as much force as is necessary to get the person to leave, or call the police.