Following yesterday’s post on where to get liability insurance, a few Santas commented on my post. Some concurred with what I said. And yet, a few others were very direct in telling me that I was “barking up the wrong tree,” or “creating a controversy within our industry.” A couple even kindly said that if they were required to have insurance and background checks, it was time for them to hang up their Santa hats.
These last comments were really a shock to me. I guess I have been working in the commercial area of the Santa business for so long, I didn’t realize that many Santas don’t have and feel they don’t need to buy insurance or have background checks.
I do know there are many Santas out there who have been wearing the Red suit for as many years as I (43 this year) or possibly even longer. And yes, I also understand that many have never had to have insurance or background checks before.
Many Santas only do charity work or just put on the red suit for family and friends. But should they have just one accident, or should just one person try to blame them for something, even if it isn’t the Santa’s fault, that Santa could end up having to pay. If not for the accident, maybe just the cost to hire an attorney to defend himself.
That is why we now have thousands of Santas, Clowns, magician’s, even stand-up comedians, having to buy liability insurance. (If you are wondering about the comedians, well sometimes people get offended by what a comedian says and try to sue him or her for their comments!) I have heard that a bald man tried to sue a comedian because the comedian commented that the shine from the bald man’s head was blinding him!
Let’s face it, the world has changed. And in some cases if you want to continue working, you need to keep up with whatever demands the customers and clients desire or even demand. Why fifty years ago, you would have had a difficult time finding a real-bearded Santa. Yet today it is the most common site at most stores and major events. Of course there are still many great Santas wearing the traditional wardrobe and beards, but even they too, are finding that insurance and background checks are the norm.
There are some Santas and Party Entertainers, who question the idea of having liability insurance. Many of these performers have been doing this for years and don’t see any need to have to pay for insurance.
But, if you have one accident, someone could sue you and you could lose everything, your home, your savings, everything?
Yes, it is difficult to understand the reasoning for having insurance. But in today’s Society, it has become more apparent that should an accident occur, someone is going to want compensation, or to at least have the damages paid for.
The Malls and Photo companies have had business liability insurance for years. It is standard business practice.
But Santas, Clowns, Magicians and other entertainers often did not have any type of coverage. Then, back in the 1950′s or early 1960′s someone sued a group of Shriner Clowns for squirting water at a parade. It seemed that someone slipped in the water and was injured in a fall. And the Clowns had to pay.
It was then that one of the Clowns, and insurance broker, started a special insurance program. Today there are a variety of companies that insure not only small entertainers, like clowns, magicians and Santas, but also concerts, festivals and larger events.
You are always open to being sued by someone should anything happen. A child slips off you knee, or trips over your boots. If there is an injury, the parent or parents, may want to have you pay for damages, duress, etc.
Here are some true scenarios:
- A young child received a candy cane from Santa. He loves the candy and licks the candy cane into a sharp point. Then while continuing to suck on the candy, is bumped by someone, cuts his tongue and punctures the roof of his mouth. The damages were not serious, but the Santa was held liable because he purchased the candy and gave it to the child. The parent sued for emergency room fees, shock and duress and won.
- And would you believe that one child while walking past a photo set tripped over another child and Santa was sued for being an “Attractive Nuisance.” Fortunately this lawsuit was considered frivolous, but it still cost Santa hundreds if not thousands in legal fees to have the case dismissed.
So, general liability insurance has become a standard for all party and event entertainers. It is there to protect you, should something happen and someone decide to seek damages or even sue you.
To go further, here are some suggestions on how to limit your liability and protect yourself:
- Do not hand out or give anything away that could harm a child. Candy Canes and other types of Candy are a tradition with the holidays. However, as mentioned above you could have a accident should a child poke himself, or even choke on a small piece of candy.
- Child-care professionals suggest that you never give away small items, especially to children three and under. This includes bells, erasers, etc. These items seem to quickly find their way into a child’s mouth. An easy test to know if an item is too small is to use the “toilet paper tube” test. If an item will fit down inside a toilet paper or paper towel tube, it could also easily be swallowed by a child. So small items are out!
- If your client buys or supplies you with items to give out, remember the above and be careful with small children. I suggest that you give the items to the parent and let the parent decide. I even do this with my trading cards.
- Pencils with points or candy canes that can be sucked into a point are also not advisable as they can create puncture wounds.
- Any toys, crayons or items that are not rated non-toxic, should never be handed out.
- Face painting and using the same brushes on different children is not healthy. stickers and water applied tattoos are great!
- As an alternative, give away stickers, wrist bands, or trading cards. And because children are always being told not to accept anything from a stranger, the proper etiquette for giving something to a child is to hand it to the parent first for approval.
Should you have any question on the above advice, feel free to contact me: Santa@RealSantas.com.