“Attractive Nuisances” – is that the name of that new television show on CBS, or perhaps Bravo? No, it is a legal and insurance term that refers to potential hazards to children that are located on your property.
These hazards could range from entertainment items like swimming pools and trampolines to items that represent a danger to all, such as construction debris, sinkholes, or junk cars and appliances. Power tools or equipment that is left out in the open may also qualify as hazards. Even dogs could be considered attractive nuisances, especially if they have a history of biting.
Your homeowner’s insurance policy may use the phrase attractive nuisance, or may have replaced it with similar jargon. In either case, the attractive nuisance concept is used to establish your liability for young children that are harmed by a hazard on your property. It does not matter whether the child was trespassing or not (the law generally does not apply to adults and older children who should know better than to trespass).
As a property owner, you are required to take reasonable care to keep young children away from these hazards. Otherwise, if a child sneaks onto your property and is injured, you may be held liable for the injuries under the attractive nuisance doctrine.
From an insurance standpoint, the attractive nuisance concept is a matter of risk assessment. Typically, policies cover between $100,000 and $300,000, with the upper end typical for homes with swimming pools and/or trampolines. If you are taking proper steps, your insurance costs may be reduced. Here are a few examples.
- Swimming Pools – A surrounding fence with locks is generally required, and an alarm system may provide extra protection..
- Trampolines/Playhouses – Limiting access is still the key. Fences and locks help, as does lowering the visibility. If kids cannot see it, they are less likely to find it and play on it. This also applies to other forms of play equipment such as swings, slides, and zip lines..
- Construction Waste/Junk – These should be disposed of as soon as possible – consider a secure dumpster if work is ongoing. Find a lockable storage shed for any junk that you simply have to keep, and be sure to keep your junk in there. Do not use it as an excuse to find and store more junk..
- Tools – Pick up and put away any power tools, ladders, and other similar items that can be potentially harmful to children..
- Dogs – Keep your dog in a fenced-in area, with a fence that kids cannot stick their fingers through to pet (or taunt) the dog..
- Falling Hazards – Natural terrain could be an issue in the case of a cliff, but this refers more to sinkholes, trenches, and open pits. If something needs to be a permanent fixture like a well, install a secure cover; for other features, fill them in as soon as possible or use a temporary fence to limit access.
- Abandoned Cars/Appliances – Don’t hang onto them. It is that simple. In the interim, remove doors on appliances and close up junk cars as much as possible. Fence them off in a locked area if you must hang on to them.
We hope that you can now spot and minimize the effect of attractive nuisances around your home – at least in the insurance sense of the word. Check your insurance policy for specific definitions, but also use common sense. Even if a hazard is not specifically listed, take appropriate steps to safeguard it.
Use the principle of, “If my child were harmed by this same hazard on someone else’s property, would I sue them?” The chances are that you will make the right call.
Meanwhile, if “Attractive Nuisances” shows up on your TV screen, make sure it’s not a reality show filmed at your house.