By Richard A. McGrath, CIC, LIA
As your thoughts begin to shift towards summer activities, now is the time to sit down with your independent agent and review your homeowner’s insurance policy. Many recreational items that are enjoyed during the summer also have the potential to expose homeowners to liability claims.
Although a standard homeowner policy will provide liability protection to cover the legal and medical costs when someone is injured on your property, there may be limitations and exclusions for “attractive nuisances.” An attractive nuisance is an object, structure or condition that is both dangerous and irresistibly inviting or intriguing to children.
According to the attractive nuisance doctrine, a property owner will be held liable for injuries to children, if the injury is caused by any hazardous condition or object on the land, that is attractive to curious children who are unable to understand the risk involved in such condition or object.
Ten of the most common attractive nuisances are railroads, swimming pools, farm equipment, construction sites, power lines, fountains and ponds, abandoned cars, old appliances, holes, and playgrounds.
As a homeowner, you need to ensure that certain safety measures are in place to dissuade children from playing on or around any attractive nuisances on your property. As an added precaution, it might be wise to rid yourself of certain attractive nuisances such as trampolines, home-made skateboard ramps, pool slides and diving boards.
With warmer days around the corner, the pool can be a fun way to cool off, but it can also be a hazardous place for young children. The National Safety Council reported that there were 184,190 swimming injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2013, including injuries resulting from the use of slides and diving boards. Out of that total, 41.7 percent of injuries involved children between the ages of five and 14.
In addition to injury, drowning is another serious threat to children. In 2012, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that there were 364 fatal drownings in pools and spas involving children younger than 15, and 279 fatal drownings involving children under five.
If you own a swimming pool, take the following precautions to ensure the safety of your children and other children in your neighborhood. Install fencing that is four-feet or taller and a self-closing, self-latching gate around the pool or deck area to prevent children from entering the area unsupervised.
Make sure that nobody swims alone and never leave a child unattended, either nearby or in the pool. Equip your door, gate, or pool with an audible alarm to alert you when someone enters the pool area, and stock life-saving equipment in the pool area such as life preservers, a reaching pole, or a rescue hook.
Although children and teens, even young adults, enjoy playing on trampolines, they can be dangerous and cause serious harm. In 2014, the CPSC estimated that there were 104,691 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline-related injuries. Children are the most common victims, with kids between the ages of six and 14 accounting for two-thirds of all emergency room visits, according to the CPSC.
The most common trampoline injuries include broken bones, concussions and other head injuries, sprains/strains, bruises, paralysis, and death. The CPSC has reported 22 deaths resulting from a trampoline incident within a 10-year period from 2000 to 2009.
If you own a trampoline, provide adult supervision at all times and don’t allow children under six to use it; kids six years and younger have the greatest risk of injury. Limit the number of jumpers to one at a time, and stop jumpers from performing tricks like somersaults. Do not use trampolines without shock-absorbing pads that cover its springs, hooks and frame. Always remove the ladder when not in use to prevent children from climbing up.
Skateboarding has become a popular activity amongst young kids and teens, but it has risks just like any other sport. In 2013, the National Safety Council found that 120,424 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms after being injured while skateboarding, 35.1 percent involved children ages five to 14 and 51.3 percent involved those aged 15 to 24.
If you have a home-made skateboard ramp, restrict children under the age of five from riding a skateboard, and supervise children ages six to 10 when using the ramp. Require all users to wear protective gear, including a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards, etc. Remember, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of designated skate parks over home-made ramps and jumps since skate parks are more likely to be monitored for safety.
If you are a homeowner who has a swimming pool, trampoline, skateboard ramp, or other identifiable “attractive nuisance,” contact your independent agent immediately to update them with this information. Neglecting to talk to your agent about these attractive nuisances beforehand could end up leaving you financially responsible for any children who are injured on your property.
Richard A. McGrath, CIC, LIA is President and CEO of McGrath Insurance Group, Inc. of Sturbridge, Mass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.