What happens if a child wanders into your yard and gets hurt while playing on a woodpile or swimming in your pool? You (and your home insurance company) could be liable — even if you were away from home at the time and have a fence around your property. That’s because swimming pools, woodpiles and other things that are commonplace in yards during the summer are typically considered “attractive nuisances.”
What is an attractive nuisance?
Attractive nuisance is a legal term that refers to the liability landowners may face when a trespassing child is injured by a hazard on their property. Liability lies with the homeowner because children often cannot adequately comprehend danger.
Farmers Insurance describes an attractive nuisance as an “object, place or condition that is attractive to children and may prove harmful to them.” It’s important to note that a “No Trespassing” sign is not enough to guard against attractive nuisance liability. Small children, who look at yard tools and see a new playground, may not be able to read or understand the significance of a warning sign.
Home insurance and attractive nuisances
Your home insurance liability coverage will cover court costs and hospital bills if someone is injured on your property. Still, homeowners should take every precaution to eliminate or limit access to attractive nuisances.
Before installing a pool or getting a trampoline, call your insurance agent. You may have to buy extra home insurance coverage. Typical policies usually include $100,000 worth of liability protection, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Pool owners might want to raise that coverage to at least $300,000. Or, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an umbrella policy will add an extra $1 million of coverage for about $200 to $300 a year.
Trampolines often are considered a big risk to insurers, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. You might be denied coverage — or your policy may exclude trampoline-related claims.
Swimming pools and trampolines
A wide range of objects and environments can create an attractive nuisance, but some of the most common hazards are inherent to summertime. Swimming pools and trampolines are firmly planted at the top of the list.
More than 3,400 unintentional drownings occur in the United States each year, and about one-fifth of these victims are children under age 14, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics cited by the Insurance Information Institute.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children are the most common victims of trampoline-related injuries. Children between ages of 6 and 14 make up two-thirds of all emergency room visits related to trampoline injuries, while children under 6 make up another 15 percent.
To prevent children getting hurt while trespassing, a tall, locked fence around your pool is the best plan of action, according to Nationwide. A pool cover also may work, according to CPSC, but only one that meets certain safety specifications. A standard pool cover actually may make a bad situation worse by trapping a child underwater or making a submerged child harder to see.
CPSC recommends surrounding trampolines with a protective net enclosure that prevents children from falling off. Nationwide warns homeowners against putting a ladder against the trampoline, as doing so makes it more accessible to small children.
Other attractive nuisances
There is no definitive list of things that can be counted as attractive nuisances. Anything that could attract children and cause injury should be removed, hidden or otherwise secured. During the summer, don’t leave yard tools and landscaping equipment unattended for even a short amount of time. Ladders are another summertime threat, as are grills, fire pits and woodpiles. Most naturally occurring phenomena are excluded from the attractive nuisance doctrine, so homeowners generally do not need to worry about trees and other common landscaping features, according to USLegal.com.