Do you happen to have rosy cheeks and a twinkle in your bright blue eyes? Is your belly like a bowl full of jelly when you laugh? If you happen to resemble the Big Guy—Santa Claus—then you may be about to start your busy season as an independent contractor for malls, department stores, home parties, and corporate events. Unfortunately, times are changing and there are a few steps that you need to take in order to protect yourself from legal liability in case an accident happens.
Get insurance coverage.
Talk with your insurance agent right away about getting Entertainer or Performer Liability coverage. In years past, nobody thought much about asking Santa for insurance, but proof of insurance is now often required in order to be allowed to operate inside many venues. For example, if you're asked to perform at a holiday-themed wedding, the venue may not allow you to take the job unless you have the proper liability coverage for yourself and any of your elves in the event of injury.
Limit your liability.
Insurance also helps prevent the venue from taking the full liability if someone gets injured as a result of your act and sues. While you might think that there aren't a lot of situations where an honest Santa could end up sued, you may be surprised at how creative some personal injury lawsuits can be. That makes it important to avoid some pitfalls that have created other legal headaches for Santas in the past:
Don't pass out candy that could be dangerous. While candy canes are a traditional gift, they can actually be sucked into a point that could injure a child.
Don't pass out small toys that could be swallowed by young children.
Hand treats provided by the person or company that hired you to the parent first, not the child. That way, you don't run the risk of handing something with sugar to a diabetic child or something with peanuts to a child with a peanut allergy.
If you've been asked to pass out small toys, take the same tactic. Remember that you could have a child that's allergic to latex, so even something as simple as a rubber ball could cause an injury.
Avoid abuse claims.
As Santa, you always want your behavior to be above reproach. However, in today's world, it's important that you never be alone with children, especially if they're seated in your lap. The same goes for any "elves" or other assistants you have working with you, whether they're working as subcontractors or were hired by the venue or event organizer. Stay away from jokes of a sexual or racial nature. Otherwise, you could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit for harassment.
If you do run into a problem with an injured quest or a disgruntled elf, don't delay—discuss the situation with an attorney at a firm like Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Associates LLC as soon as possible. It may be possible to settle any issues quickly, which will let you get back to the business of being Santa for another year.