As summer approaches, people start looking forward to spending time outdoors. Kids especially get excited about playing outside on their trampolines. While parents should be encouraging their kids to be active, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers they could face in their outdoor environments, especially in the summertime. In fact, the National Safety Council indicates that more preventable, accidental deaths happen during the two months of July and August each year than during any other two-month period. To this end, Farmers Union Agency will be talking about attractive nuisances with an insurance perspective over the next couple months.
What is an attractive nuisance?
An attractive nuisance is a feature on a property that could attract the attention of a child, lure them in and then possibly lead to their harm. If you property contains things like treehouses, swing sets, swimming pools, fire pits, fountains or trampolines, these are considered attractive nuisances. There are liability risks you need to consider. Attractive nuisances are considered a premises liability. An attractive nuisance doctrine exists under premises liability law and refers to the set of laws that make property owners for certain injuries suffered specifically by children who are present on the premises, even if trespassing. The attractive nuisance doctrine was put into place because kids don’t always have the ability to differentiate between conditions that could be harmful to them and conditions that aren’t. So it’s the responsibility of the property owner to protect kids when they have an attractive nuisance on their property. While there are dangerous conditions all around us in our natural world (kids can climb trees and get hurt), an attractive nuisance is something that is created. So, if a child was lured onto your property because of the temptation to climb a tree on it, the tree would not be considered an attractive nuisance and injuries suffered from a fall would not be your responsibility. But if the same thing happened on a treehouse structure, the treehouse would be considered an attractive nuisance, and you could be held liable for injuries suffered from the fall.
How does it affect my homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance carriers take a look at a variety of things to determine rates. Certain features of a home and property can impact rates because of their degree of danger. The higher the chance that someone could get injured on a policyholders’ property, the higher the homeowners insurance rates will typically be. Specifically related to attractive nuisances, you will need to let your carrier know if you have one or more on your property when you seek out a homeowners insurance policy. There’s a strong chance nuisances will increase your rates, but, if you don’t disclose them to your carrier, you risk the possibility of rejected claims. According to the Insurance Information Institute, most standard homeowners policies provide between $100,000 and $300,000 in liability coverage per incident. Generally, that’s adequate for attractive nuisances, but to be safe, always check with your Agent.
Insurance implications of trampolines, swing sets and tree houses
Just like with other attractive nuisances, if you’re thinking about buying a trampoline or a swing set, or are considering building a treehouse, it’s a good idea to read your homeowners insurance policy or check with your insurance Agent. Be sure to understand your policy’s terms and conditions on coverage. Coverage for outdoor play equipment like trampolines, swing sets and treehouses is generally handled in one of three ways: No exclusions, Exclusions, or Coverage with safety precautions.
- “No exclusions” means that a homeowners policy doesn’t put any limit on the ownership or usage of the equipment. For example, if a visitor or guest is hurt while bouncing on your trampoline and you’re found responsible for their medical bills, the liability coverage in your homeowners policy may help cover the costs.
- “Exclusions” would mean that your policy would not provide protection if your trampoline, swing set, treehouse (or other attractive nuisance) were specifically excluded from your policy.
- “Coverage with safety precautions” means your homeowners insurance may provide coverage for the attractive nuisances like trampolines on your property, but only if you have certain safety precautions in place.
It’s also important to pay attention to the coverage limits in your homeowners insurance policy. A coverage limit is the maximum amount your insurer will pay toward a claim that is covered. Even if your insurance offers coverage for trampolines or treehouses, you’ll want to make sure the coverage limits are suitable for you and your family. If you’re looking to increase coverage for treehouse- and trampoline-related injuries, one way is through a personal umbrella policy, which would provide you with additional liability coverage above the limits of your homeowners policy – usually up to $1 million. Your Agent can help you change your coverage limits or help you decide if more protection is the right decision.
There are some simple precautions to follow in order to keep visitors safe on trampolines:
- Only one person at a time should jump on the trampoline.
- No somersaults.
- Always keep the trampoline springs covered with padding.
- Do not place the trampoline near trees or other structures.
- Only allow children 6 and older to jump on a full-sized trampoline, and supervise all children on trampolines.
- Place an enclosure (such as a net) around the trampoline to prevent falls to the ground.
- Do not leave a ladder near the trampoline when it is not being supervised.
- Inspect trampolines regularly for tears, rust and detached springs or pads.
There are also some things anyone can do to lessen the chance of treehouse injuries:
- Build the treehouse 10 feet or less from the ground.
- Add several inches of soft mulch around the base of the treehouse as a cushion.
- Use solid, 38″ high barriers and guardrails.
Bottom line: be prepared
If you are a parent, it’s important to remember your kids will be attracted to explore and play with things like tree houses, trampolines and other fun but potentially dangerous things. This means you need to be proactive in protecting both your own kids from the dangers of other property owners’ attractive nuisances and the neighborhood kids that could wander on to your property if you have attractive nuisances of your own. Supervision, education, proper insurance coverage and safety precautions are all ways to avoid the issue of accidental harm associated with an attractive nuisance. Next month we’ll be talking about insurance implications of pools, hot tubs and water features. Special thanks to thesimpledollar.com’s Blog for contributing to the content of this article. Be sure to contact your local Farmers Union Insurance Agent for a review of your homeowners and umbrella insurance policies. Don’t yet have an umbrella? Be sure to request a comprehensive review as our Agents can offer coverage from financially reputable carriers. [/av_textblock]