What is an attractive nuisance?

An attractive nuisance is a hazardous condition or situation on a homeowner's property that entices children, putting their safety in danger. If you have an attractive nuisance on your property, such as a swimming pool or trampoline, you may be held legally responsible if a child is injured due to an attractive nuisance — even if they're trespassing.

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What is an example of an attractive nuisance?

Many everyday items can be considered an attractive nuisance, often ones we may not even be aware of, including:

  • Swimming pools, hot tubs, fountains and ponds
  • Treehouses, trampolines and playground structures
  • Power tools, including lawnmowers and chain saws
  • Wells
  • Tunnels
  • Scaffolding and ladders

What's the attractive nuisance doctrine?

There are several conditions that have to be met under the attractive nuisance doctrine to be held responsible for harm to a child resulting from a hazard on your property. Cases are assessed on a case-by-case basis, but generally attractive nuisance laws require owners to take reasonable measures to eliminate hazards which would foreseeably harm a child. If you fail to take reasonable care to eliminate hazardous risks on your property, you may be liable for injuries to children who trespass, since they're unable to assess the potential danger that may be involved.

Does my home insurance policy protect me if I'm liable for an injury resulting from an attractive nuisance?

A limit – usually between $100,000 to $500,000 -- in personal liability coverage, per incident, is provided on a standard homeowners policy. However, depending on your insurer, you may be ineligible for coverage if you have certain risks on your property. In some cases, insurers may require you take precautions to reduce the risk. For example, you may required to have a fence at least four feet tall with a locked gate surrounding your pool.

Since swimming pools are a significant cause of liability claims, homeowners with built-in pools may want to consider having a higher liability coverage limit. If you think you need extra liability coverage than what your homeowner's policy provides, an umbrella policy typically offers liability coverage in increments of $1 million up to $5 million.

How can you reduce potential liability concerns?

If there are potential dangers on your property, which may cause injuries to children, it's your responsibility to reduce or eliminate the risk as much as possible. Taking precautions may help keep children safe and ensure you're covered if an accident was to occur.

Here are some ways homeowners can help protect themselves from an attractive nuisance incident:

  • Install a fence that is at least four feet tall, including a locking gate, around pools. A pool alarm system may also be installed. Be sure all pool chemicals are safely stored out of reach. Fill in pools that are no longer being used with substantial material (ex: dirt or cement).
  • Install a safety net around trampolines and be sure the trampoline is installed on level ground.
  • Choose a strong, sturdy tree for tree houses. Don't build close to electrical wires, and plan a safe way to get up and down from the treehouse.
  • Inform all house guests of any water fountains, hot tubs, ponds, wells, or tunnels in your yard, and tell them these areas are not to play in or near.
  • Supervise younger children when they're playing on backyard play equipment.
  • Store all machinery, scaffolding, and ladders in an enclosed garage or storage shed.
  • Routinely inspect latches and gates to ensure they're in good working order.

Will home insurance cover damage to the actual attractive nuisance?

Other structures coverage may cover in-ground swimming pools, but it's best to check your homeowners policy. Coverage for damage to tree houses, trampolines, playground structures, and other potential nuisances will depend on your insurer and policy, as underwriting for attractive nuisances can be strict. It's important, therefore, to be truthful with insurers when disclosing all attractive nuisances on your property.

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