Many thanks to my good friend, Mike Loguercio of Stone River Insurance Solutions. He has become an accomplished columnist for The Insurance Advocate, an industry trade magazine and with his permission, I am passing along some of his thoughts on pools, trampolines and basketball hoops.
“Attractive Nuisance Liability”
This term applies to having a swimming pool, basketball hoop, trampoline, or fish pond on your driveway or yard. If it has the ability to attract kids (legal or otherwise), and potentially cause them harm if they utilize or even illegally abuse it, you are proverbially SOL if little Johnny next door decides to play some hoops in your driveway and break his ankle, or fall into your pool after a night of drinking with his friends, or bounce off your trampoline and land head first in your gold fish pond breaking their little darling necks…of course immediately after they climbed over your six foot white PVC fence with a locked gate while you and your loving family were on vacation. Oh, and by the way, I sure hope you didn’t leave your pit bull out to roam and protect your fiefdom while you’re traveling, because if that dog does his job and protects his territory by taking a chunk out of Johnny’s rump roast while he’s stumbling out of your pool, guess what? You’re on the hook for that one as well. According to the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) swimming pool ownership is constantly rising. Currently, there are over 8.3 million homes in the United States that own an in-ground or above-ground pool. This statistic is up almost 10 percent since 2002, as reported by the Association of Pool and Spa professions. No one type of pool is excluded, regardless of whether or not it is a small child’s pool or one fit for a king and his court. Regardless of its size or shape, it is important to be sure to advise your clients that any pool can be dangerous and must be properly insured. At the same time, you should also remind them that it must also comply with local safety standards and building codes.
Furthermore, last May a report placed on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission web site, 886 children ages five and younger died after drowning in either a pool or spa between 2004 and 2006. The report also indicated that the preponderance of those deaths occurred in homes (79 percent) and that the adult who was responsible at the time that the accident occurred had lost contact or was not aware of the whereabouts of the children involved (46 percent) before the child wandered over to the pool or spa. Furthermore, according to this report, fatal drowning remains as the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths for children ages 1 to 14 years of age. As a matter of fact, for every child who drowns, there are five children who require and receive emergency medical care for nonfatal water injuries.
As posted on the Insurance Information Institute website, it is highly advisable that you should inform your clients that before purchasing and installing a pool in ones’ backyard they contact their town or municipality and familiarize themselves with their town’s definition of a “pool,” which may be defined by the town by the size of the pool and depth of the water. If the particular pool that they are planning to purchase meets the definition that the town uses for “pool”, then they must act in accordance with local safety standards and current building codes. This may include among, other mandates and ordinances, installing a fence of a required height, locks, decks, and pool safety equipment. The institute goes on to say that pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” and it is prudent to purchase additional liability coverage above and beyond the standard policy limits. Although (as you are obviously aware) most HO policies include liability protection, homeowners owning a pool should absolutely consider increasing the amount of liability coverage, while also purchasing a multimillion dollar umbrella policy. Of course, depending upon the cost and value of the pool, the homeowner should also have the proper coverage in order to replace it in the event that it is destroyed by a storm or other disaster. The following safety precautions are also highly recommended by the I.I.I. and it is suggested that you pass these along to your clients as well:
Put fencing around the pool area to keep people from using the pool without your knowledge. In addition to the fences or other barriers required by many towns, consider creating “layers of protection” around the pool, i.e. setting up as many barriers as possible (door alarms, locks and safety covers) to the pool area when not in use.
Never leave small children unsupervised— even for a few seconds. And never leave toys or floats in the pool when not in use as they may prove to be a deadly temptation for toddlers trying to reach them.
Keep children away from pool filters and other mechanical devices as the suction force may injure them or prevent them from surfacing. In case of an emergency, know how to shut off these devices and clearly post this information.
Be sure all pool users know how to swim. Learners should be accompanied by a good swimmer. If you have children, have them take swimming lessons as early as possible. And, don’t allow anyone to swim alone.
Check the pool area regularly for glass bottles, toys or other potential accident hazards. Also, keep CD players, radios and other electrical devices away from pools or nearby wet surfaces.
Clearly post emergency numbers on the phone, in the event of an accident. Keep a first aid kit, ring buoys and reaching poles near the pool. You may also want to consider taking basic first aid and CPR training. Oh, and as one last piece of advice…tell your clients to spend the money and pay a professional to open their pool. Take it from me, it is well worth it.