Family gathered around a holiday table

How High Is the Risk of Injury During the Holidays?

The winter holiday season is a time for people to gather together and enjoy the various festivities. Despite it being a time for joy and celebration, this particular time of year comes with its own set of risks and potential injuries. Some of the most common risks around the holiday arise from the activities, decorations, and even the weather conditions this time of year.

Holiday-Related Activities and Injuries

  • Alcohol-Related Injuries: Celebrations often involve alcohol, which can increase the risk of accidents, including car accidents and falls. Celebrations that involve serving alcohol mean that hosts have specific legal responsibilities to ensure the safety of their guests. This responsibility falls under the Social Host Liability or Dram Shop Liability laws.
    While Pennsylvania does not consider house parties that feature alcohol as a dram shop, these types of parties may involve a social host liability issue. The hosts of private parties are not held to the same standard as a business serving alcohol, but social host liability does come into play if anyone under the age of 21 consumes alcohol at the event. If the intoxicated minor leaves the party and then causes an accident, the host who knowingly provided the alcohol can be held legally responsible. As a host, it is your duty to prevent minors from accessing alcohol on your property or at your event. If minors do drink at your gathering, you may be subject to both civil and criminal liability as a result of injuries from the minor’s intoxication and fines or jail time for serving a minor.
    If you are serving adult guests at a party in your home, you may have a moral responsibility to ensure that individuals do not drink excessively or on an empty stomach, but the burden would not fall on you as host if an adult gets into an accident as a result of drinking too much in your home. The state’s current legislation protects social hosts from being held responsible for damages inflicted by an intoxicated person, so long as the person who caused the damage is over the age of 21.
  •  Accidents As A Result of Slips and Falls:  Decorating for the holidays often involves climbing ladders to string lights or hanging ornaments, which can lead to falls. These falls can result in a range of injuries, from minor bruises to more serious injuries like fractures or concussions. Slip and fall accidents can also occur more often during the holidays due to icy conditions, wet floors in stores, or tripping hazards from holiday decorations lying around on the floors of homes. Property owners might be liable if they fail to maintain safe conditions or warn of potential hazards.
  • Car Accidents: The holiday season often sees an increase in car accidents due to factors like increased travel, winter weather conditions, and, unfortunately, drunk driving after holiday parties. Drivers at fault can be held liable for injuries caused in such accidents. 
  • Cold Weather Injuries: In many places, the holiday season corresponds with colder weather, leading to risks like hypothermia, frostbite, or injuries from slippery surfaces.
  • Product Liability and Toy-Related Injuries: For children, new toys, especially those not age-appropriate, can pose choking hazards or lead to other injuries. Gifts and holiday products can sometimes be defective or dangerous, leading to injuries. If a product is poorly designed, manufactured, or lacks proper warnings, the manufacturer or seller could be liable under product liability laws.
  • Burn and Electric Shock Injuries: With the increased use of candles, fireplaces, and cooking, there is an increased risk of burns during the holiday season. This includes burns from cooking, open flames, or hot holiday lights. Injuries involving electricity are possible at this time of year as well as a result of the installation of holiday lights and decorations. Working with electricity can lead to electric shocks if not handled properly. If any injuries sustained result from someone else’s negligence (like a landlord not maintaining fire safety standards), you may have grounds for a personal injury claim.
  • Injuries at Holiday Parties: If you are injured at a holiday party, especially a work-related one, there could be various avenues for claims, including premises liability or workers’ compensation, depending on the circumstances.
  • Dog Bites and Animal Attacks: With more social gatherings, there is increased exposure to pets, which might lead to more animal-related injuries. Pet owners are generally liable for any harm their pets cause.

There is a two-year statute of limitations in Pennsylvania that applies to any civil action in which an individual seeks to recover damages for personal injuries, or for the death of an individual, caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another person. This two-year statute of limitations also applies to product liability cases in the event of a defective product that causes harm around the holiday season.

Hopefully, any injuries will be avoided during the holiday season. However, should an accident unfortunately occur during this time of year, it is advisable to consult with an attorney who can help you determine if you should pursue any type of claim.  The attorneys at Cooper Schall & Levy are experienced in personal injury law and can help you if you need to take legal action as a result of the festivities surrounding the holidays.