The term “attractive nuisance” may be new to you. It refers to anything on your property that might prove irresistible to children. That could include playground equipment or a swimming pool, but kids are also attracted to things like machinery, old cars, and cast-off freezers. The law says you are legally liable for any injury sustained on your property if a reasonable effort isn’t taken to make the items safe. The provision was originally called a turntable law because children who wandered onto railroad property were injured on a locomotive turntable. Posting signs does not eliminate your liability because some children are too young to read. Here are some things you can do to minimize your risk.
Identify Attractive Nuisances. Besides the obvious things like trampolines, swimming pools, and playground equipment, look for other hazards. For instance, kids see old cars and cast-off appliances as hideouts. A deep hole you dug to repair a sewer line could fill with water and become a danger. Your riding lawnmower and power tools are attractive nuisance examples too. A pile of construction materials like lumber could even be a hazard.
Secure the Hazards. When you are home you can monitor your property, but you must take protective measures when you are away. If you have a fenced yard, make certain there are no holes children could crawl through, and install good locks on the gates. That won’t keep kids from climbing over to play on your swings or trampoline, but it shows “good faith.” For liability purposes, that means you have attempted to keep children away. Fence in the pool as well, or install a lockable cover over it. Take the doors off old freezers and refrigerators as well as old cars sitting on your property so that children don’t get trapped inside them. Store your tools and equipment like your lawnmower in a locked building.
Be proactive. Anticipate problems and take steps to make them safe. Although a sign will not stop you from being held liable for damages, it may keep some older children from trespassing on your property. You should also pay attention to the kids who play at or around your home, noting the things that seem to attract them. Give children verbal warnings to stay away. Again, this may not deter them, but it demonstrates your intent to protect them. Video and photograph the interventions you make so that you have a record if you are sued.
Make sure you have enough insurance. Consider having your agent evaluate your coverage to make certain you are protected against damages incurred by people injured on attractive nuisances on your property. For more information on this and other liability issues, contact us or check our website.