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Backyard pools and trampolines can make your home a lot more fun, but they can also lead to liability. Both can be examples of “attractive nuisances,” enticing but potentially dangerous features of a home that you can be held responsible for if someone gets hurt on your property.
Here’s what you need to know about attractive troubles and how you can protect yourself from liability if you have them at home:
What is an attractive nuisance?
An attractive nuisance is something that can attract a child to your territory, as well as being a danger to him. In this case, you, as the owner of the property, are responsible for ensuring that the situation is safe or that children do not wander in and harm themselves. This is the case even if the kids are technically invading and you didn’t invite them into your property.
The law says that you have a duty to keep children out of or keep the danger house function safe. You must also maintain homeowner insurance coverage to protect yourself from legal risks.
What are some examples of attractive nuisance?
Common attractive annoyances include:
- Pools: Children are at risk of drowning, especially if they sneak into the pool unsupervised.
- Trampolines: Although intended for children, using the trampoline can cause injury.
- Discarded refrigerators or refrigerators: Children may be tempted to climb inside and fall into the trap.
- Pits or piles of sand and dirt: They can be unstable and children can get stuck inside if dirt or sand moves.
- Abandoned cars: As with old refrigerators, children may be tempted to climb inside and injure themselves.
- Construction sites: Construction sites are full of potential hazards, including holes in the floor, discarded nails and screws, and unprotected stairwells.
What is an attractive annoying doctrine?
The doctrine of attractive nuisance is a legal framework that holds landowners liable if a child injures himself after being drawn to an unsafe element of property. A parent or guardian of a child can sue you as the owner of the property if they prove that you did not take adequate steps to prevent children from entering an unsafe area or did not adequately prevent injury.
According to this doctrine, children who wander into your territory because of an attractive nuisance are treated as invitees, not as intrusions. This means you have a higher level of responsibility for keeping your property safe.
States deal with these situations in different ways, depending on their laws. However, as a general rule, you can be legally liable if a child harms your property under the cuteness doctrine if:
- You know, or probably know, that children may encroach on your property (for example, you have a swimming pool with a slide or a treehouse in your yard).
- You know, or probably know, that a nuisance can be a danger to children.
- Children are not immediately aware of the danger they may face.
- The burden of getting rid of the trouble or fixing it is less than the danger.
- You do not take reasonable precautions to ensure that children do not harm themselves on your property.
Verify: What is Personal Liability Insurance in Home Insurance?
Unsupported attracted troubles
In general, attractive nuisance only applies if the insecure state is human-created. In most cases, natural features on the property, such as a pond, lake, rock, or hill, will not be liable if an intruder is injured.
However, even natural features such as a lake, pond, or stream can be an attractive nuisance in some situations. For example, if a pond on your property becomes a known gathering place for children, you may be liable if you don’t take care to make the place safe.
Another exception to the attractive nuisance doctrine is when an unsafe state is clearly and obviously dangerous. In this case, you will most likely not be liable if the intruder injures himself while on your land. This is because one of the key features of an attractive nuisance is that the offending child does not immediately realize that the place is dangerous.
How can I protect myself from liability?
Regardless of your situation, you can take steps to protect yourself from liability for an attractive nuisance. In many cases, these are just common sense decisions. Here is some of them:
- Remove the trouble. The easiest way to avoid responsibility 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. Make sure old refrigerators or refrigerators are properly disposed of – don’t leave them on your property for any length of time. Bulky items can be picked up by your city, or you can hire a company to deliver them for you – often for free.
- Do not let children roam inside. Something as simple as a fence with lockable or self-closing gates can be enough to keep kids from entering the pool unsupervised and protect you from liability. When the pool is not in use, a hard pool cover can also help prevent children from falling into the water.
- Take reasonable precautions. Keep your property clean and tidy. Don’t leave things like ladders or tools in the yard that might tempt the neighbor’s child. Stow inflatable pools when not in use and keep pool toys away. If construction is underway, make sure contractors put in place safety measures throughout the process to block off access to dangerous areas and remove nails and other sharp objects daily.
- Ensure correct installation. Play equipment such as swings must comply with safety protocols including handrails and distance between swings. Treehouses should have sturdy wooden ladders and pools should have all the necessary safety equipment in place.
- Don’t rely on signs. You might be tempted to post a “Do Not Enter” or “Warning” sign and put an end to it. However, signs are usually not enough to protect oneself from liability under the doctrine of attractive nuisances. Most states have nuisance awareness rules in place to protect young children who cannot be expected to be able to read signs, no matter how well placed they are.
- Maintain homeowners insurance. Standard homeowner insurance policies include personal liability coverage that will help pay for your defense and judgments against you if someone sues you. However, be sure to carefully read your insurance policy and take care to comply with the terms of the contract. You may be held liable if you do not take reasonable steps to keep your property safe.
How does attractive nuisance affect my bonus?
In many cases, a potential attractive nuisance, such as a swimming pool or trampoline on your property, can increase a homeowner’s insurance premium. The insurer may even deny you an insurance policy, depending on the nature of what you have at home, or deny you a claim if you do not have the proper security measures in place.
When buying a policy, this topic is likely to come up. It is imperative that you be honest about any potentially attractive annoyances you have. Failure to disclose an attractive nuisance on your property is called a cover-up, and your insurance company will not cover you if someone gets hurt because of an attractive nuisance that the insurer did not know about. Consider talking to an insurance agent to make sure you have enough coverage.
Learn more: What is cover-up in insurance?
Disclaimer: All insurance-related services are offered through Young Alfred.