Attractive nuisances can pose an unexpected liability risk to home and property owners.
What’s an attractive nuisance?
Basically, from a homeowners insurance perspective, it’s anything that creates a potentially dangerous condition on your property that may attract trespassers and result in health or safety hazards, such as injury or death, especially for children.
If you haven’t taken appropriate precautions to prevent injury, such as fencing in your pool, you could be liable for damages, even if the injured party is a trespasser.
This is especially true with children because of the attractive nuisance doctrine. In the eyes of the law, owners must treat trespassing children as invitees and therefore have to take appropriate and reasonable means to ensure their safety, eliminate dangers, and provide adequate warning around hazards.
In this blog post, we’ll help you understand what an attractive nuisance is and how to protect yourself from an insurance perspective.
Common Attractive Nuisances
- Swimming pools
- Playground equipment
- Construction projects
- Construction equipment
- Old or abandoned vehicles
- Abandoned Refrigerators and Appliances
- Machinery (lawnmowers, gasoline pumps, etc.)
- Tool Sheds
- Unsecured weapons
- Dangerous domestic animals
- Paths and stairs
- Landscaping and broken safety gates
- Scaffolding, ladders, and rooftops
What’s Usually Not Considered an Attractive Nuisance?
Non-Maintained Attractive Nuisances are generally not considered liabilities. What does the term “non-maintained” usually apply to?
- Ponds and lakes
- Cliffs and hills
- Small things that can be choking hazards (acorns, sticks, etc.)
- Carbon monoxide poisoning in a house, shed, or barn (unless you have a carbon monoxide alarm)
- Smoke inhalation (unless you don’t have a working smoke alarm)
There are also Apparent Dangers, which are also not generally considered liabilities. Most courts understand that small children don’t always understand the consequences of their risky behavior and can get hurt in various ways. The law usually presumes that children understand some basic risks, such as:
- Falling from a great height
- Open pits
- Sharp objects
- Hot water
- Approaching a wild animal
- Approaching a fenced-in or leashed animal
It’s a good idea to contact your insurer and review local, municipal, and state laws to ensure you’ve taken reasonable precautions to keep your property safe.
When Could You Be Held Liable?
The heart of attractive nuisance laws stems from protecting children from curiosity that could harm them. Often, children don’t recognize risks. Attractive nuisance laws strive to protect children from themselves.
In the eyes of the law, property owners could be held liable for harm that befalls children if they’ve imposed an “artificial condition” upon the land, such as a construction site.
Owners need to be aware of the following liabilities:
- If they know or have reason to believe, children may trespass.
- An unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm may occur.
- Children involved are too young or inexperienced to understand the risk the condition presents.
- The burden of maintaining a safe area is slight compared to the risk to children.
- Owners fail to take reasonable precautions to eliminate dangers or protect children.
It’s important to know that courts apply these attractive nuisance principles on a case-by-case basis and they are applied based on circumstances and state law.
It’s also important to recognize that warning and safety signs are helpful but generally won’t protect you from liability in court. You must take steps, such as erecting physical barriers around safety hazards, to prevent children from accessing an attractive nuisance on your property.
Will Your Homeowners Insurance Protect You?
You might wonder if your homeowners insurance policy will protect you if you’re found liable for injury resulting from an attractive nuisance.
A standard homeowners insurance policy may offer protection—often between $100,000 to $500,000—but you could be ruled ineligible if your insurer deems you haven’t taken adequate precautions to reduce risk on your property. Swimming pools are a classic example. Your insurer may require installing a fence with a locked gate around your pool to ensure you’re eligible for coverage.
You may also want to consider an umbrella policy that provides extra coverage if you’re concerned you need more protection.
How Can You Reduce Your Liability?
You can take precautions to limit your liability, and it starts with understanding what is and is not an attractive nuisance based on your circumstances.
For example, a swimming pool surrounded by a gated fence isn’t likely considered an attractive nuisance. One lacking a fence and providing clear access to water may be (depending on state law).
A piece of construction equipment left running is an attractive nuisance. If it’s shut off and locked up, it’s not.
A trampoline with no safety netting will likely be considered an attractive nuisance. One with proper netting is not.
However, it’s important to know that if you witness children interested in something on your property, that could be enough to prove you’re liable because you’re aware that there’s something on your property that children are interested in.
So, use good judgment, and if you see something that may attract children, lock it up, fence it off, store it in a barn or shed, post “no trespassing” signs, and warn a parent or guardian that the child is poking around where they shouldn’t be.
However, varying circumstances based on your unique conditions are important to consider. If you have any of the above on your property and are unsure if you’ve taken reasonable precautions to protect children, the best thing you can do is contact us or find a local agent today.
We’ll help you learn what you can do to ensure a safe property, protect children, and ensure you have the right amount of homeowners insurance coverage to protect yourself from the unexpected.
Are you concerned about attractive nuisances on your property?
Want to learn more about ways to lower your homeowners insurance premiums? Read 11 Ways to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance Rates today.
*Disclaimer: We offer content for informational purposes; Co-Op Co-operative Insurance Companies may not provide all the services or products listed here. Please contact your local agent to learn how we can help with your insurance needs.
Cornell Law School. Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/attractive_nuisance_doctrine
Find Law. Dangers to Children: What Is an Attractive Nuisance? https://www.findlaw.com/realestate/owning-a-home/dangers-to-children-attractive-nuisances.html
Forbes. What Is An Attractive Nuisance? Legal Definition & Examples. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/personal-injury/attractive-nuisance/
Progressive. What is an attractive nuisance? https://www.progressive.com/answers/what-is-an-attractive-nuisance