Fall is here and the signs are everywhere. Along with pumpkin patches comes the spooky themed events and activities, celebrating Halloween. Halloween approaches with the opening of many haunted houses as well as haunted outdoor venues (corn mazes, haunted hayrides, etc.) designed for delightfully scary fun.
Monsters, Zombies, and Waivers, Oh My
It is all intended to be in good fun – monsters, clowns, zombies, and other frightfully costumed actors – with the intention to scare the guests as they bravely venture through the darkness around blind corners. It is all good fun, until someone gets hurt, and the question then becomes, who is responsible when a scare-seeker is injured on the premises of a haunted house or outdoor venue. In truth, states and localities have rules regarding safety in haunted venues which must be followed for legal operation.
Some haunted houses require guests to sign waivers before entering for just this reason. The waiver is designed to limit your ability to sue should you get injured onsite. If you sign a waiver and get hurt because you were successfully scared, the question of negligence on the part of the owner comes into view, making it imperative that you document your experiences following an injury.
Another issue often in question is the policy regarding what the monsters (actors) can and cannot do regarding patrons. Generally, when you pay for admission, you agree to the haunted house’s terms whether or not a warning is provided. Many haunted houses allow no physical contact, but for those that do, if an actor injures you or touches you inappropriately, the venue could be liable for the actor’s conduct.
Permits and Building Requirements
In most areas, haunted houses and other haunted venues are required to have proper permits to operate the attraction. Building requirements must be met, and for outdoor attractions like mazes, there must be an obvious exit throughout with no dead ends. Haunted houses cannot have open flames or space heaters within and must have fire extinguishers throughout the building(s). In some regions, haunted houses are required to have an automatic sprinkler system in place. In addition, most areas require limited group size (not larger than 20) and the employee leading the group must have a flashlight.
Common Injury Causes at Haunted Houses
Emergency room visits increase around Halloween, often the result of haunted house guests who have been injured. Let’s explore the most common haunted house injuries.
Slip, Trip, and Fall – Slip, Trip, and Fall injuries are the most common coming from haunted houses. Falls occur due to poor lighting as well as tripping hazards (cords, furniture, rugs, props) because haunted houses are designed to disorient guests though the use of fog machines, strobe lights, and more. Walkways can be slippery, uneven, and narrow, and when a monster ‘attacks’ visitors can easily lose their footing. Some haunted houses even feature mechanical features like opening doors, shaking floors, which contribute to the possibility of slip, trip, and fall injuries. Slip, trip, and fall injuries can result in everything from sprained ankles to broken bones to traumatic brain injuries.
Employee Error and Scares Gone Too Far – While everyone goes to the haunted house for scary fun, sometimes the scares go too far – chasing guests down stairways or causing them to run down other guests in fear. The goal of the actors is to use surprise and scare tactics though many don’t take their temporary position as seriously as they ought. Some seasonal employees have been inebriated or just careless and distracted enough to grab too hard and injure guests. At other times, over-the-top scares have resulted in anxiety attacks and heart attacks.
Damaged Props – Damaged props such as malfunctioning animatronics or worn down props, like dangling weapons which fall and hit someone, can cause serious injuries. Other common malfunctions of props and furnishing might include a falling coffin (which was thought to be secured), breaking floorboards, animatronics gone wild, and more.
The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide – While not the first danger you would think of, carbon monoxide is used in fog machines and pose multiple dangers for guests. The first could result in a slip and fall, when machines which run all day and night leave slippery places on the floor. The second is carbon monoxide poisoning from excess quantities of the gas trapped in the confines of the haunted house reaches dangerous levels. Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause vomiting, severe headaches, and even death.
The Hazards of Outdoor Haunts – In rural areas, haunted cornfields and hayrides are popular, but also offer hazards for guests. Uneven terrain and inclement weather can result in slip and fall injuries. And underage hayride drivers may pose concerns while driving the tractor and wagon full of patrons.
Haunted Houses in Broward and Miami-Dade County
- The Haunt on Himmarshee – Experience a full walking ghost tour of downtown Ft. Lauderdale’s haunted and historic spots! After the tour ends, you will experience the scariest final destination!
- Haunted Pirate Shipwreck – You and others will play the role of a group of treasure hunters, who have successfully traced the location of shipwrecks, but now you must find the gold!
- Paranoia – Ready to walk thru a black out horror maze experience that will have your heart racing? Welcome to the world of Paranoia!
- Haunted Hospital – Experience the ultimate live escape game! You will have 60 minutes to find out what kind of virus caused the death of hundred patients in the abandoned hospital.
If You Suffer an Injury at a Haunted House, Are they Liable?
Owners of haunted houses are looking to beat the competition though bigger, better scares and make money in the process. In most cases haunted houses are harmless fun, until someone is injured due to negligence. As previously stated, you enter a haunted house voluntarily and willingly – knowing what’s coming, dim lights, fog, actors jumping out to frighten you – and by entering you legally assume the risk.
Even so, if you are injured in a haunted house you may have a case. The owners of the haunted house must provide a safe attraction and not negligent, which means you should seek compensation if you are injured in a haunted house. The premises liability law always holds property owners responsible for the proper maintenance of their locations and for the safety of their guests. If you have been injured at a haunted house or venue, call on Attorney Brandon Stein and the professional legal team at Stein Law for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.