It seems like haunted houses have always been one of the tried-and-true traditions associated with the Halloween season. These days they're more popular than ever, with increasingly technically-advanced effects to add to the fright level. According to a haunted house trade organization, (yes, that's a thing), the number of houses has doubled in the last decade. There are now about 1,200 throughout the country. They rake in some $500 million each year.
While the dangers encountered in haunted houses are supposed to be imaginary, the fear can be very real. Sometimes it's too much for visitors to handle. One haunted house performer who works in a house located on the grounds of a former penitentiary said that every year a few people suffer panic attacks so bad that paramedics need to attend to them.
There are risks of physical injuries as well when visitors are walking through a dark house, with zombies, chainsaw murderers and grim reapers lunging at them. So what kind of liability can the owners of these haunted houses face if someone is physically injured or psychologically scarred?
According to one insurance attorney, there are basic safety codes by which haunted houses must abide. The performer at the former penitentiary says that no visitors have ever sued them or even complained. He notes that people "want to be scared, so complaining wouldn't make sense."
The insurance attorney says that of the handful of liability suits that he found that have gone to court, the courts ruled on the side of the haunted houses. However, he adds that "it wouldn't surprise me to see that in the future other courts view the same facts differently."
People visit haunted houses throughout the year and particularly around Halloween for the fun, excitement and adventure of stepping into another world and being frightened. However, they also take for granted that they will ultimately be safe and leave unharmed. If someone is injured during a haunted house visit, it's probably wise to find out what your legal options are so that you can try to recoup medical costs and other damages.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Are Haunted Houses Liability Free?," John W. Miller, accessed Sep. 08, 2015