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Backyard pools and trampolines can make your home a whole lot more fun, but they can also expose you to liability. Both can be examples of “attractive nuisances,” tempting but potentially dangerous home features that you can be held responsible for if someone gets hurt on your property.
Here’s what you need to know about attractive nuisances and how to protect yourself from liability if you have them in your home:
What is an attractive nuisance?
An attractive nuisance is something that could entice a child to come onto your property – and also pose a danger to them. In this case, it is your responsibility as the owner to make the situation safe or prevent children from wandering in and getting hurt. This is the case even if the children are technically trespassers and you haven’t invited them into your property.
The law states that you have a duty to prevent children from entering the dangerous function of the house or to make it safe. You should also maintain home insurance coverage to protect against legal risks.
What are some examples of an attractive nuisance?
Common attractive nuisances include:
- Pools: Children run the risk of drowning, especially if they sneak into an unsupervised pool.
- Trampolines: Although intended for children, using a trampoline can potentially lead to injury.
- Discarded refrigerators or coolers: Children may be tempted to climb inside and be trapped.
- Holes or piles of sand and earth: These can be unstable and children could get trapped inside if dirt or sand shifts.
- Abandoned cars: Like old refrigerators, children may be tempted to climb inside and injure themselves.
- Building sites: Construction sites are full of potential hazards, including holes in the ground, thrown nails and screws, and unprotected bearings.
What is the doctrine of attractive nuisance?
The attractive nuisance doctrine is a legal framework that holds property owners responsible if a child is injured after being attracted to a dangerous feature of the property. A parent or guardian of a child may sue you as the owner if they prove that you failed to take appropriate action to prevent children from entering the danger area or to prevent sufficient the wounds.
According to this doctrine, children who wander onto your property due to an attractive nuisance are treated as if they are guests, rather than trespassers. This means you have a higher level of responsibility for securing the conditions of your property.
States handle these situations differently, depending on their laws. However, in general, you can be legally liable if a child is injured on your property under the doctrine of attractive nuisance if:
- You know or are likely to know that children may encroach on your property (for example, you have a swimming pool with a slide or a tree house in your yard).
- You know or are likely to know that the nuisance may pose a danger to children.
- Children do not immediately realize the danger they could face.
- The burden of getting rid of or repairing the nuisance is less than the danger posed.
- You do not take reasonable precautions to prevent children from being injured on your property.
Check: What is civil liability in home insurance?
Nuisances attracted not maintained
In general, attractive nuisance only applies if the dangerous condition is man-made. In most cases, natural features of a property such as a pond, lake, cliff or hill do not expose you to liability if an intruder is injured.
However, even natural features like a lake, pond, or stream can become an attractive nuisance in certain situations. For example, if a pond on your property becomes a well-known gathering place for children, you can be held liable if you don’t take care to secure the area.
Another exception to the doctrine of attractive nuisance is when the dangerous condition is clearly and demonstrably dangerous. In this case, you will probably not be held responsible if an intruder is injured on your property. Indeed, one of the main characteristics of an attractive nuisance is that the intruding child does not immediately understand that the area is dangerous.
How can I protect myself from my liability?
Whatever your situation, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from liability due to an attractive nuisance. In many cases, these are simply common sense solutions. Here are a few :
- Eliminate nuisances. The easiest way to avoid liability for an attractive nuisance is to get rid of it. In some cases, this is the simplest and best solution. Do not store abandoned vehicles on your property; consider donating vehicles to a non-profit organization instead. Make sure old fridges or coolers are properly disposed of – don’t leave them on your property for an extended period of time. Your city can pick up large items, or you can hire a company to transport them for you, often for free.
- Prevent children from walking around. Something as simple as a fence with a latched or self-closing gate can be enough to keep kids out of an unsupervised pool — and protect you from liability. When the pool is not in use, a rigid pool cover can also help prevent children from falling into the water.
- Take reasonable precautions. Keep your property clean and orderly. Don’t leave things like ladders or tools in your yard that might tempt a neighbor’s child. Store inflatable pools when not in use and store pool toys. If construction is ongoing, ensure that contractors take safety measures throughout the process to block access to dangerous areas and clean nails and other sharp objects daily.
- Make sure the installation is correct. Play equipment like swings should follow safety protocols, including guardrails and swing distances. Treehouses should have sturdy wooden ladders and swimming pools should have all the necessary safety equipment in place.
- Don’t trust the signs. You might be tempted to post a ‘Don’t’ or ‘Warning’ sign and call it a day. However, the signs are usually not enough to protect you from liability under the doctrine of attractive nuisance. In most states, attractive nuisance rules are in place to protect young children who cannot be expected to be able to read signs, no matter how well placed.
- Maintain home insurance. Standard home insurance policies include liability coverage, which will help pay for your defense and judgments against you if someone sues you. However, be sure to read your insurance policy carefully and be very careful that you stick to the terms of the contract. You could be held liable if you fail to take reasonable steps to secure your property.
How does an attractive nuisance impact my premium?
In many cases, a potential attractive nuisance like a swimming pool or trampoline on your property can increase your home insurance premium. An insurer may even deny you obtaining an insurance policy, depending on the nature of what you have in your home, or deny your claims if you have not put the appropriate security measures in place.
When shopping for a policy, the subject will likely come up. It is essential that you are honest about any potential attractive nuisances you have. Not disclosing an attractive nuisance on your property is known as concealment, and your insurance company won’t cover you if someone gets hurt due to an attractive nuisance that the insurer didn’t know you had. . Consider talking to an insurance agent to make sure you have adequate coverage.
Learn more: What is concealment in insurance?
Disclaimer: All insurance related services are provided by Young Alfred.