What Is an Attractive Nuisance and How Does It Affect Home Insurance Rates?
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An attractive nuisance is something on your property that is reasonably likely to attract a child and cause them to get injured like a pool or treehouse. Because attractive nuisances pose a liability risk, you may have to pay higher homeowners insurance rates if you have one and your insurance company may require you to take steps to mitigate their potential to cause harm.
Read below to learn what qualifies as an attractive nuisance and what steps you can take to prevent a costly liability claim.
What Are Common Examples of an Attractive Nuisance?
Examples of an attractive nuisance that you might have on your property include the following.
- Swimming pools: Any large body of water could pose a drowning risk for children, including in-ground or above-ground swimming pools, hot tubs, fountains and wells. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages one to four. It is also the second leading cause of unintentional death for children ages five to 14, with swimming pools accounting for 30% of drownings among children within this age range.
- Playground equipment: Slides, swings, monkey bars and other climbable equipment may all be attractive to children and could lead to injury if they aren’t careful.
- Trampolines: Various kinds of toys may qualify as attractive nuisances, but trampolines have the potential to be particularly dangerous since unsupervised children could easily hurt themselves by jumping high into the air and then falling to the ground. Ninety percent of trampoline injuries were sustained by children ages five to 14 and nearly 33% of those injuries involved fractures.
- Treehouses: Any structure like a treehouse that encourages children to climb to a high place where they could fall and hurt themselves would qualify as an attractive nuisance.
- Construction projects: Whether you’re building a new deck or fixing your roof, materials from a construction project like scaffolding and ladders have the potential to draw in children. It can be especially dangerous to leave tools like hammers, power drills, nail guns and chainsaws out in the open.
- Pets: Animals are undoubtedly appealing to many children and can be dangerous to them in some cases as well. In particular, dog breeds that have a reputation for biting, like pit bulls and rottweilers, will likely qualify as attractive nuisances.
- Stairs and walkways: Stairs and walkways naturally invite people to walk on them, but missing handrails and uneven ground can also present a liability risk.
- Lawn care equipment: Everyday lawn maintenance tools like lawnmowers and garden shears may also attract and endanger children if they are left out.
- Piles of lumber: Loose wood scraps may look like a potential fort to a child but could very well be a source of cuts and splinters as well.
- Bounce houses: Bounce houses are great for children’s parties but they can be dangerous — The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated over 18,000 bounce house-related injuries in 2018. Keep in mind that many bounce house rental companies require you to sign a contract that holds you liable for any injuries sustained within the bounce house.
- Firepits: While most children likely understand the importance of avoiding fire, they may not realize that they could still be burned if they touch a firepit shortly after the fire has been put out.
- Junk: A child’s imagination may go wild if they’re presented with an old car, abandoned refrigerator or even a pile of gravel or sand. Of course, there’s also the potential for harm when a child plays with anything that isn’t held to proper safety standards.
What Isn’t Considered an Attractive Nuisance?
Attractive nuisances must be artificial conditions that a person has introduced to the property. This means objects and land formations produced by nature do not qualify as attractive nuisances. So, while a child could drown in a lake, fall from a tree, choke on an acorn or poke their eye out with a stick, none of these would be considered an attractive nuisance even if a child is drawn to them.
What Is an Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?
The attractive nuisance doctrine is a legal principle asserting that property owners should be held responsible in certain cases when a trespassing child is injured on their property. There are five conditions that generally must be met for someone to be held liable under the attractive nuisance doctrine.
- The property owner could reasonably expect that a child would be drawn to the attractive nuisance on their property and would likely trespass as a result.
- The property owner could reasonably expect the attractive nuisance to pose an excessive risk of bodily harm or death to a trespassing child.
- The child was too young to recognize the danger of interacting with the attractive nuisance.
- The risk that the attractive nuisance posed to the child was greater than the usefulness of the attractive nuisance for the property owner or the burden for them to mitigate its danger.
- The property owner did not exercise reasonable care to protect children who might trespass on the property.
The attractive nuisance doctrine generally applies to children under the age of 12, although courts have applied it to teenagers as old as 17 before. However, the doctrine will not apply to a child whose actions show that they understand the danger associated with the attractive nuisance.
Which States Have an Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?
Courts in most states have recognized the attractive nuisance doctrine. In states that don’t have it, property owners are still expected to take reasonable precautions to prevent anyone from being harmed on their property, but they may not be held to a higher standard when it comes to trespassing children.
Below is an overview of whether and how each state has adopted the attractive nuisance doctrine.
Courts have applied the attractive nuisance doctrine
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, DE, DC, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NJ, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WA, WY
Courts have not applied the attractive nuisance doctrine
CT, HI, IL, MD, NH, NY, VT, VA, WV
The state previously recognized the attractive nuisance doctrine but courts have since abolished it
Lawmakers have codified the attractive nuisance doctrine into law
MA, MI, NV, WI
Am I Covered if There’s an Injury That Results From an Attractive Nuisance?
If a child is injured on your property due to an attractive nuisance, their medical bills should be covered by your personal liability insurance. Personal liability coverage also pays for legal expenses if the injury escalates into a lawsuit.
However, you may not be covered if you fail to disclose the presence of an attractive nuisance on your property to your insurance company. For example, if a child is injured on a trampoline that you didn’t tell your insurer about, you may have to pay for their medical expenses out of pocket.
As a result, you should always inform your insurance carrier about potential attractive nuisances. Keep in mind that owning an attractive nuisance increases the risk that you will need to file a claim on your homeowners insurance, so you may have to pay higher home insurance rates if you have a swimming pool, playset or similar attractive nuisance.
How Can You Reduce Potential Dangers and Liability Concerns?
Your insurance company will likely require you to take steps to mitigate the impact of attractive nuisances before agreeing to provide you with coverage. For example, you may need to put up a fence with a locked gate around your swimming pool or a safety net around your trampoline.
This might include storing your lawn mower and power tools in a locked shed when you’re not using them and keeping your dog on a leash anytime you take it outside.
Finally, it’s important to talk to your neighbors and warn their children about any potential dangers on your property. While it might also be helpful to put up a “no trespassing” sign, it likely won’t be enough to prevent you from being held liable if a child gets injured on your property, especially if the trespassing child is too young to read.