By Catherine Powell
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
We're all familiar with the old adage, "It's all fun until someone gets hurt." While the saying is usually applied to kid's games, if a kid who isn't yours gets hurt while playing at your home, you could be held liable. Even worse is if the child in question is injured while playing on what's later deemed an "attractive nuisance" on your property. Since most homeowners with the exception of attorneys aren't all that familiar with the term or what it could mean to their wallet, I'd like to take the time to explore the topic in detail in today's blog.
What does the court consider as an attractive nuisance? By definition, an attractive nuisance is a person who creates or permits to exist on his or her land a hazardous situation that's likely to attract the attention of children. If a child gets injured on your property due to an attractive nuisance, you may be required to pay for the resulting damages, even if the child was technically trespassing. That's right, if a neighborhood kid finds your swimming pool or treehouse irresistible and decides to take a dip or climb your tree only to get hurt while doing so, you can expect to receive a summons shortly thereafter. To win in court the plaintiff (i.e. the injured child's parent), must prove that a potentially hazardous situation was present at the time of the injury. Additionally, the plaintiff must prove that the property owner knew the hazard existed that had the potential to harm children and that he or she was aware that the nuisance was likely to attract children to it. Most courts also stipulate that the attractive nuisance that drew a child to it was manmade as opposed to natural. That means if you have a brook or a pond on your property, you're off the hook unless they were dug at your behest. Below are the top-10 attractive nuisances and what you need to know about them.
1. Swimming Pools - No doubt this is one of the most deadly of all attractive nuisances since death by drowning is the number one cause of fatalities to children between 1 to 4 years of age in the US. It's also the second-highest cause of fatalities to children 5-14 years old. Not only do swimming pools have a magnetic attraction to children, but if you add a slide or a diving board, it ramps up the attraction up. To make matters worse, if your pool isn't fenced and the gate secured, this increases your potential liability even more. There have been several court cases where homeowners lost lawsuits because their pools were easily accessible to neighborhood children. On the other hand, property owners have been known to win when they showed that trespassing children gained access to their pool even though it was securely fenced and gated.
2. Treehouses, Trampolines, Jungle Gyms, & Skateboard Ramps – These four playthings are like the four horsemen of the apocalypse when it comes to the potential to do grievous bodily injury to children. Broken bones, concussions, and more can occur when children use these with or without supervision, especially for kids who have had little or no previous experience with them. Five and six-figure awards are routinely handed out for attractive nuisance suits involving these supposedly kid-friendly items.
3. Unsecured Animal - Kids love dogs. But that doesn't necessarily mean that all dogs love kids. If you own a dog you not only need to make sure that it's leashed or fenced in at all times, you also need to warn off any curious children who approach your dog even if Fluffy wouldn't normally hurt a fly.
4. Discarded Appliances - While you might be thrilled about acquiring a new fridge, range, or washer/dryer, make sure you properly dispose of the discarded models. Children have been known to fall off of or get trapped inside discarded appliances.
5. Motorized Equipment - If you own an ATV, a riding mower, a chainsaw, or any other kind of motorized equipment, you'd better make sure you don't leave your garage door open or the item lying in plain sight. Kids sometimes treat these tools like toys much to their and your later regret.
6. Parked Cars & Motorcycles - If you park your car on the driveway, make sure you lock it securely and roll up all the windows. Kids love to play inside cars and may get locked inside during the heat of the day. Unattended motorcycles can be just as dangerous should a child cause one to fall atop themself.
7. Firearms - Children of all ages can and do injure, maim and kill themselves and their friends when a firearm they pick up gets discharged. If you own guns, make sure they're unloaded and securely locked up in a gun safe. Any other location can be all too easily accessed by curious kids.
8. The proverbial hole in the ground - Everything from ditches and wells to holding tanks and excavations have been the source of numerous attractive nuisance lawsuits, especially if the holes were left unprotected and uncovered. Children who climb into a hole in the ground can be buried alive or even drown if the hole fills with rain.
9. Construction Sites - Though you may be considering doing a bit of home remodeling, make sure any hazard zones created during construction are secure so children won't use the site as a playground.
10. Fish Ponds - If your property features a fish pond, make sure it doesn't hook a child who could potentially drown in it.
Aside from considering with due care anything on your property that could later cause a child to injure him or herself, make sure you touch base with your insurance agent to find out if any of the items could increase your rates or cause an insurance company to drop you like a hot potato.
Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/