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Protecting yourself against lawsuits from children getting hurt on your property

Posted at 8:12 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 22:12:09-04

Some kids are trying to get outside more because they may be feeling cooped up without going to school anymore.

With this comes an added danger for parents and homeowners in general.

Craig Swapp and Associates has some ways you can protect yourself against the liability of children getting injured on your property during the summer season.

If children enter my yard uninvited, am I still liable for any injuries or possible death?

'Attractive nuisance' is a term that applies to property that is inherently dangerous and particularly enticing to children.

For example, a swimming pool has a strong attraction to many children and could lead to a liability judgment against the pool's owner.

You as the owner must take all necessary steps to prevent accidents, such as building an adequate fence or installing a pool cover/trampoline safety net.

Attractive nuisances can also apply to abandoned cars, piles of lumber, dirt or sand, stacks of firewood, horses and other animals, ladders leading to rooftops, etc.

In fact, it can be applied to virtually anything on the property of the landowner.

There is no set cutoff point that defines youth. The courts will evaluate each "child" on a case-by-case basis to see if the "child" qualifies as a youth.

If an injured child's age is able to understand and appreciate the hazard, the doctrine of attractive nuisance will not likely apply.

Many homes have trampolines. Am I protected by my homeowner's insurance?

Insurance companies have paid great attention to the latest statistics which indicate there are about three million backyard trampolines in use in the United States.

Each year over 100,000 accidents involve trampolines (about 20% are spinal injuries), resulting in medical and legal costs exceeding $270 million a year.

Insurance companies have watched the backyard trampolines quickly go from being a non-issue in underwriting to a factor used to disqualify a risk and cancel homeowner insurance policies.

Most insurance companies will exclude any liability insurance coverage for household trampolines and will cancel policies when trampolines are seen during a drive-by home inspection.

The main reason insurance carriers started excluding trampolines was in response to a policy statements of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which states categorically that trampolines should not be used at home, on playgrounds, or in physical education classes, even with the proper safety measures in place.

If you have a backyard trampoline you may want to contact your homeowner insurance company to be sure you have liability in the event someone visiting your home is hurt.

If you let your children play at a home with a trampoline make sure you have good medical insurance for your child in the event they are injured because your neighbor or friend may find they don't have liability insurance to cover an injury to your child.

What about swimming pools?

Backyard swimming pools provide serious swimming pool liability.

The homeowner can (and probably will) be held responsible for any injuries or deaths that take place in or around the pool, even if the children in question were trespassing, scaled a fence to access it, or otherwise used it without your permission.

With or without permission and knowledge, swimming pool liability attaches to the owner of the pool for the safety of anyone using it.

When you own property, you owe a 'duty of care,' even to trespassers.

The "duty of care" means that you cannot create a hazardous situation and are often obligated to prevent, repair, and warn of any hazardous situation.

If you have an unattended, unsecured pool, especially one that is easily accessed by wandering children or other strangers, you may be found to have created a hazard and not to have properly taken steps to protect those trespassers to prevent swimming pool liability.

The fact that there is often swimming pool liability for accidental drownings is a primary reason why pools are such a gray area when it comes to home ownership.

In fact, a pool can decrease the value of a home if buyers are worried about swimming pool safety or swimming pool liability.

While technically a homeowner's insurance policy may offer coverage for a pool, the truth is that any sort of coverage, even though the most comprehensive policy you can purchase, is not necessarily going to be enough to protect you should someone be seriously hurt in your pool.

It is practically required that you purchase a separate insurance policy for swimming pool liability, or an umbrella policy for your home, which would allow you to purchase swimming pool liability coverage into the millions of dollars.

Are simple play-sets a liability?

You do have a responsibility to use reasonable care to make sure that the set is safe.

This means that the screws on the ladder are on tight. It means that if it's a wooden play-set that the nails are actually nailed in and not exposed for someone to cut a leg or arm.

If someone falls and hurts themselves, then maybe some coverage for the medical bills is available under your homeowner's medical care payments policy.

As far as lawsuits are concerned, however, you are only liable to someone if you have been careless.

For more advice on protecting yourself against lawsuits, go to craigswapp.com.