Liability matters can be confusing and “attractive nuisances” are no exception. If your backyard is the envy of the neighborhood thanks to a pool, swing set, trampoline or other neat (but potentially hazardous) feature, you’ll want to be careful. Injuries to guests from a so-called attractive nuisance on your property puts you at fault, regardless of whether those guests were invited or not (especially if they happen to be children).
These increased risks of injury also increase your liability as the property owner. If a child gets hurt on your property, you are likely on the hook for any medical expenses or associated costs. This in turn impacts your insurance liability, and it may raise the cost of your insurance premium.
What are attractive nuisances, and how can you reduce their associated liability and insurance costs?
What is an attractive nuisance?
According to the Wex Legal Dictionary, an attractive nuisance is: “A doctrine in tort law under which a landowner may be liable for injuries to children who trespass on land if the injury results from a hazardous object or condition on the land that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object or condition.”
Common examples of attractive nuisances include:
- Water fixtures like fountains or wells
- Playground equipment, like swings and slides
- Tree houses
- Zip lines
- Construction sites
- Power tools
Oftentimes, the things that are the most fun for kids are the same hazards that attract the most injuries. Whether it’s jumping on a trampoline, swimming in a pool, or swinging on the swing set, kids love to play on potentially dangerous equipment. You are responsible for any hazards or injuries on your property.
You should also note that you are responsible and liable for uninvited guests. This includes if a few neighborhood kids jump on your trampoline without your knowledge or your teenagers throw a pool party while you’re out of town. You are always responsible for attractive nuisances on your property that you are aware of, that you know attracts kids, and that you know could potentially be harmful. If you created and maintained the attractive nuisance, it’s your responsibility regardless of invitation.
How do attractive nuisances impact insurance?
Attractive nuisances increase the risk of liability on your home. Because they’re potentially dangerous, they increase the risk of a liability-related claim on your homeowners’ insurance. This means the insurance company is more likely to have to pay out a lot of money if there’s an injury.
This additional risk doesn’t come without a price. You’ll typically have to pay an increase on your monthly or yearly insurance premiums to match this increase in liability. The cost upsurge can be anywhere from $50 a year to $50 a month depending on your liability and safety features.
Some insurance companies have attractive nuisance exclusions. For example, they might have a “trampoline exclusion,” so the insurer won’t cover any liability caused by the trampoline. In these cases, you’d have to purchase additional liability or umbrella coverage to ensure you are fully covered.
How can you minimize the risk of attractive nuisances?
To completely remove this increased risk and cost of liability, you’d have to get rid of your pool, toys, and even DIY home projects altogether. This isn’t always possible (or fun), so there are ways you can reduce your risk and minimize your liability. (Plus, when you lower your liability for attractive nuisances, your insurance company might reward you with lower insurance premiums in tandem.)
Check out these safety tips to reduce your risk and liability -
- Cover your pool with a safety cover when not in use.
- Keep rescue items like first aid kit and life ring with throw ropes near the pool.
- Keep all pool toys stored away when not in use. If children don’t see the toys, they’re less likely to be attracted to the pool.
- Never leave children near the water without supervision.
- Install a tall fence and locking gate around the pool to deter unwelcome guests.
Fountains and wells
- If the water structure is large enough to drown in, be aware that it’s considered an attractive nuisance.
- Put up a decorative barrier around your fountains and wells.
- Use a floating alarm that sounds when it detects someone in the water.
- Keep young children, especially toddlers, away from fountains and wells to avoid slips or falls.
- Space swings at least 24 inches apart and 30 inches from the support frame.
- Put toddler bucket seats in a separate area from larger swings.
- Check the set frequently for wear and tear.
- Install a shock-absorbing surface that extends at least 6 feet out from the edge of the set. Sand, wood chips, and pea gravel are good shock absorbers. Take note that recycled rubber might be a carcinogenic that you don’t want to expose your family to.
- Install a shock-absorbing flooring underneath the trampoline.
- Make sure the trampoline is on a level surface without any movement.
- Add a safety net and padding around the trampoline.
Tree houses and zip lines
- Install a fixed, wooden ladder rather than a rope ladder for getting up to the tree house.
- Create a fun pulley system so kids can hoist toys and items up into the tree house without carrying them up while climbing.
- Check the sturdiness of the house frequently.
- Implement a weight limit allowed in the house or on the zip line.
- Put a locked, alarmed fence around your yard to deter kids from coming in uninvited.
- Rent a large dumpster to get rid of debris.
- Lay ladders on the ground when not in use.
- Store tools in a locked room or toolbox.
- Turn off all power tools and unplug or remove batteries when taking a break.
- Put up hazard signs and safety cones.
- Don’t invite other kids over while in the middle of a construction project.
- Teach your children about the dangers of weapons. Explain to children why you have the weapons for safety purposes, but ensure they know that weapons are not a toy.
- Keep weapons safely locked away in a gun safe. Keep guns unloaded and store ammunition in a separate, locked area.
Overall, you want to keep your property clear from anything potentially harmful that kids and teens could want to play around with. Focus on safety, and don’t let anything slip by. Many injuries are caused by negligence.
You may also want to implement some rules with your family about safety with and around these nuisances.
Attractive nuisances increase your liability, which raises insurance premiums and puts you and your wallet at risk. But you can still have an entertaining and fun oasis at your home. Focus on implementing safety techniques and maintaining a watchful eye on your property and kids, and you’ll reduce your liability and insurance costs in tandem.
A good insurance policy can also help you manage your financial risk if you’ve got the most fun backyard in the neighborhood. Speak with an InsuraMatch insurance advisor today at (855) 244-7671 to review your policies and determine if your liability coverage is adequate for your risk.
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