Children swimming in a swimming pool

Insurance Implications of Your Swimming Pool, Hot Tub and Water Feature

As summer gets rolling, people start looking forward to spending time outdoors.  Kids especially look forward to spending time in a swimming pool when the hot weather hits.  While parents should be encouraging their kids to be active, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers they could face in their outdoor environments, especially in the summertime.  In fact, the National Safety Council indicates that more preventable, accidental deaths happen during the two months of July and August each year than during any other two-month period.

To this end, Farmers Union Agency will be talking about attractive nuisances with an insurance perspective over the next couple months.

Is a swimming pool an attractive nuisance?

An attractive nuisance is a feature on a property that could attract the attention of a child, lure them in and then possibly lead to their harm.  If your property contains things like treehouses, swing sets, swimming pools, fire pits, fountains or trampolines, these are considered attractive nuisances.  There are liability risks you need to consider.

Attractive nuisances are considered a premises liability.  An attractive nuisance doctrine exists under premises liability law and refers to the set of laws that make property owners for certain injuries suffered specifically by children who are present on the premises, even if trespassing.  The attractive nuisance doctrine was put into place because kids don’t always have the ability to differentiate between conditions that could be harmful to them and conditions that aren’t.  So it’s the responsibility of the property owner to protect kids when they have an attractive nuisance on their property.

While there are dangerous conditions all around us in our natural world (kids can climb trees and get hurt), an attractive nuisance is something that is created.  So, if a child was lured onto your property because of the temptation to climb a tree on it, the tree would not be considered an attractive nuisance and injuries suffered from a fall would not be your responsibility.  But if the same thing happened on a treehouse structure, the treehouse would be considered an attractive nuisance, and you could be held liable for injuries suffered from the fall.

Insurance implications of your swimming pool, hot tub and water feature

When we think of homeowners insurance, we think of two different types of coverage.  One is covering costs associated with damage that may occur on the premises and the other is covering costs associated with injuries that may occur on the premises (also known as liability insurance).  Liability coverage for your swimming pool or hot tub means that the insurance company will help pay for things like bodily injury, medical expenses and legal fees if a guest is injured in your pool or hot tub.

Liability protection is included as a standard feature in a typical homeowners policy.  But because pools and hot tubs can increase your liability risk, it’s a good idea to consider increasing your coverage.  A personal umbrella policy is something you can buy on top of your standard homeowners policy to add liability protection.  The liability coverage begins when you’ve used up the required underlying insurance amount of your homeowners policy.

By choosing the right insurance coverage and limits, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have protection in place just in case something unexpected happens.  Be sure to ask your local Farmers Union Agent about umbrella insurance to go with your homeowners insurance.

Statistics

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the world, with 372,000 drowning deaths reported each year.  In the U.S., an average of 3,536 people died from drowning annually from 2005 to 2014, which means 10 people died per day.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of 1 and 4.

There are thousands of others who suffer swimming pool-related injuries each year.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported there were an estimated 6,600 pool or spa-related hospital emergency room-treated injuries each year from 2016-18, and 363 pool or spa-related drownings reported per year between 2014-16 that involved children under age 15.

Here are some additional statistics about swimming pool accidents and drowning deaths among kids in the U.S.:

  • Nearly two-thirds of drowning deaths each year happen in the summer months (May through August).
  • The majority of fatal pool drownings occur in children under 5, and mostly in backyard pools.
  • Children aged 1 and 2 are most at risk of drowning in a swimming pool.
  • Boys are twice as likely to drown in a pool-related accident than girls.
  • Lack of supervision (meaning the child is not within arm’s reach) is the number one cause of fatal pool drownings.
  • 47% of the pool drownings between 2005-2014 were because at least one physical barrier, such as a fence or gate, failed in preventing a child from gaining access to the pool.

Safety Precautions

In addition to having the proper homeowners insurance coverage, it’s also a good idea to take safety precautions to keep your pool secure and prevent injuries.  If you have an in-ground pool, it should be enclosed by a fence that is at least five feet tall, with latching features on all gates that surround the pool.  If no fence is present, the pool should be covered by an automatic safety pool cover to prevent trespassers from getting into the pool when you’re not aware.

If you have an above-ground pool, it’s recommended to have latching gates at any deck steps that lead to the pool.  If there’s not a deck, the ladder leading to the pool should be stored away when it is not being used.

If you have a hot tub, secure a cover and make sure no water collects on top of the cover.

For either hot tubs or pools, make sure you remove toys to prevent the risk of a child falling into the water while trying to grab a toy.  Also, keep children away from hot tub drains.  The suction can pull hair or other body parts toward it.

If you have a retention pond or other water feature, it’s a good idea to post “No Trespassing” signs.

Thanks to The Simple Dollar for contributing to the content of this blog.  We will finish up the three part series on attractive nuisances next month when we address insurance implications of fire pits, grills and gas fireplaces.  Be safe, and stay cool!