The tradition of decorating one’s home and yard for the holiday season is one deeply ingrained in American culture. A recent ESFI consumer survey revealed approximately 86 percent of Americans decorate their homes as part of the winter holiday celebrations. Families with children under 5 are significantly more likely to celebrate with decorations (97 percent) as compared to those with no children (84 percent). Unfortunately, this comes with the risk of many potential injuries as well.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are approximately 15,000 injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms nationally between November and December that involve holiday decorating. That figure has been steadily rising over the last several years. It works out to approximately 250 unintentional injuries every day during the holiday season. Holiday movies may make mishaps such as stepping on broken ornaments or falling off a ladder seem funny, but the reality of these injuries is anything but amusing.
The most common holiday decorating injuries include:
- Falls. These account for 34 percent of all emergency department treatments. Most often, these occur when people fall off ladders or roofs trying to hang decorative lights.
- Lacerations. These account for 11 percent of all holiday emergency department treatments.
- Back strains. These account for 10 percent of all hospital emergency department treatments.
- Ingestion of foreign objects. This is a major problem for children, who may grab decorations that look like holiday candy and attempt to put them in their mouths and swallow.
- Burns/ smoke inhalation. Fire departments reportedly respond to an average of 230 Christmas tree fires every December. Those incidents resulted in 10 deaths, 20 injuries and $16 million in property loss. Meanwhile, candle-related fires over a recent tow-year period resulted in 70 deaths, 680 injuries and $308 million in property losses. There are also risks with holiday lights/ extension cords, fireplaces and careless cooking.
Liability for these types of incidents will depend on whether the injury involves:
- A product defect that contributed/ caused the injury (product liability).
- An injury that occurred on someone else’s property (premises liability).
The ESFI survey indicated more than 63 percent of respondents use one or more extension cord while decorating for the holidays and 60 percent fail to inspect those cords. More than half of respondents said they don’t turn off outdoor lighted decorations when they leave home and a third leave them on when they go to bed.This can be a serious fire hazard.
So too are Christmas trees. The U.S. CPSC recommends when it comes to trees:
- Placing lighted candles far away from trees (as well as curtains and furniture).
- Making sure artificial trees are rated fire resistant.
- Making sure live trees are fresh and well-watered (and thus less prone to dryness, which is a fire hazard).
- Place the tree away from all heat sources, including fireplaces.
And when it comes to decorating the tree, make sure to use caution when placing the top ornaments. Make sure to heed the warning labels on the ladders. Check out these Ladder Safety 101 tips. Keep small (possible choking hazard) decorations out-of-reach of children and take special care with sharp, weighted or breakable decorations.
If you or someone you love is injured in the course of decorating or in the midst of a holiday gathering, it may be worthwhile to consult with an injury attorney to determine whether you may have grounds to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
If you have been injured in Miami, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
‘Tis the Season to Decorate Safely, Dec. 5, 2016, CPSC
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Third-Party Liability for Distracted Driving Accidents? Dec. 10, 2016, Personal Injury Attorney Blog