By Cory Bilton
Everything about Santa Claus points to the conclusion that he’s an accident waiting to happen. I’ve only seen him once, about 30 years ago, but I remember he was an older gentleman with poor eyesight. He operates a non-traditional vehicle without proper safety equipment (no headlights, turn signals, or seatbelts). I’m skeptical that Santa has the appropriate operator’s license. His vehicle is pulled by draft animals that are considered wild. He drives at night, when darkness makes it harder to see. From many accounts, his sleigh exceeds weight limits for roadways and rooftops. He drives on roads, front yards, and roofs without regard to traffic regulations or private property. Santa Claus is a danger to public safety.
So you may be wondering, what do you do when Santa Claus negligently injures you or damages your property? Suppose Santa fails to yield the right-of-way to your vehicle, or the weight of his sleigh collapses the roof of your home? What recourse do you have? Here are some tips for residents of the Washington, DC area when pursuing a claim for personal injury or property damage against Santa Claus.
Demand Santa’s Legal Name, Home Address, Insurer, and Contact Information
Although Santa Claus is a well-recognized public figure, his legal identity and place of residence is not well-known. So if you are involved in a collision with Santa Claus, it is critical for you to get sufficient information from Santa at the scene, so that you’ll be able to find him later. Demand to see Santa’s license and proof of insurance. If you or your family are physically injured in an accident with Santa, call 911 to get the police involved. In all three of our local jurisdictions, Virginia, DC, and Maryland, police should take a report if anyone is physical injured or if there is significant property damage. This incident or crash report should include each party’s contact information. With Santa Claus’s personal information, you will be able to file a claim with his insurer or file a lawsuit if necessary.
Don’t Count on Santa’s Insurance
Due to Santa Claus’s age, one might presume that he has good insurance. While Santa may have good insurance, the insurance requirements of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC will only apply to Santa Claus if he is a resident of one of these states. I’ve heard it said that Santa Claus claims legal residence in the North Pole. While I’m not licensed to practice law in the North Pole, a Google search reveals no laws that require North Pole residents to carry liability insurance. Given that there seems to be no insurance requirements and knowing Santa’s jolly (maybe free-wheeling) ways, you should not count on Santa having insurance.
Instead of relying on Santa’s insurance, the holidays are a good time to make sure that your home and auto insurance are sufficient to protect you and your family. If Santa’s sleigh crashes through your roof, your homeowner’s insurance should cover the property damage. Homeowners insurance often has “medical payments” coverage that could be used to pay for medical expenses resulting from injuries to you or your household. If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision with Santa’s sleigh, you should be able to make an uninsured or underinsured motorists claim with your own insurance company if Santa lacks auto insurance. Since these types of insurance might not cover you outside your home or vehicle, bicyclists and pedestrians may be forced to file a lawsuit as the only way to recover for their Santa-caused injuries.
Dangers of Trial: Santa’s Insolvency and Juror Sympathy
Even if Santa doesn’t have insurance, he would still be personally liable for any injuries or property damage he causes. A personal injury attorney could help you negotiate a settlement with Santa, or file a lawsuit and get a jury verdict against him for damages. But this plan is not without problems. While Santa does appear to have a lot of toys and an enormous manufacturing operation in the North Pole, it is not clear how Santa Claus makes money or whether his assets could be reached by a local court. Santa may be insolvent.
Furthermore, anyone injured by Santa Claus should be aware that many jurors are likely to find him a sympathetic defendant. He has a reputation for being generous, caring, and jovial. It will be an uphill battle to expose Santa as reckless, careless, or mean-spirited. In fact, many people may disbelieve you entirely when you say that you were injured by Santa Claus. Litigation always involves risk; but litigation against Santa Claus would be particularly challenging.
Be Safe During the Holidays
While it is usually difficult to predict when you will be injured by someone else’s negligence, the threat of being injured by Santa Claus is usually limited to one night a year. So on Christmas Eve, take an extra moment to remind yourself that in the middle of the night an overweight old man operating a reindeer-drawn sleigh weighing thousands of pounds will visit your neighborhood. Keep your own safety in mind. Happy Holidays.
Please, please read my disclaimer.