Is a Trampoline an Attractive Nuisance?
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Jumping on a trampoline can be great fun for kids and even adults. Unfortunately, trampolines are also responsible for countless injuries, which consequently result in lawsuits and homeowners insurance liability claims.
As a property owner, you are more vulnerable under the law if a child is injured on a trampoline on your property, rather than, say, by tripping over a garden hose, because a trampoline is considered an “attractive nuisance”.
An attractive nuisance is a structure or item that attracts the attention of children while also posing a safety risk. Other attractive nuisances include pools, hot tubs, decorative water features, swing sets (and other playground equipment), construction sites, tree houses, fire pits, etc. When you own an attractive nuisance, it is expected that you take reasonable precautions to secure them. If you do not, you could be held responsible in court for a child’s injuries, even if you weren’t on the premises when they were injured.
Unfortunately, trampolines are among the most dangerous attractive nuisances. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discourages the use of trampolines in recreational settings, as trampolines were not originally designed for children. In fact, they were created to train acrobats and gymnasts. Children (especially young children) have a hard time controlling the trajectory of their bouncing while playing on trampolines. Incidents like being launched off the trampoline, getting caught in the springs, and children bouncing into each other, result in thousands of trampoline injuries every year.
If you are a landowner who is considering purchasing a backyard trampoline, here are some tips and safety precautions to prevent you from being on the receiving end of an attractive nuisance lawsuit.
Put up a fence
While mesh enclosures on trampolines serve to prevent children from falling off a trampoline, their simple zipper doors do little to keep them out. Your trampoline should be in a yard with a fence that is at least four feet or taller with self-closing or self-locking gates.
Installing a fence around your trampoline also dissuades older children from trespassing onto your property and using your trampoline. As mentioned earlier, even if a child trespasses and is consequently injured on your trampoline, it could still fall under your liability coverage.
Properly set up and maintain the trampoline
Making sure your trampoline is situated on level ground is a crucial safety precaution. A tippy trampoline is a recipe for disaster. The trampoline should also be situated on a soft surface like grass instead of concrete; if a child falls out, you want the softest terrain possible to break their fall. For the same reason, it’s also important that your trampoline is placed in isolation from other fixtures in your yard like dining sets or other play equipment.
Maintain your trampoline and regularly check it for signs of wear. This means examining the mesh safety net for holes or tears. Also, inspect the padding, frame, and screws for indications that repairs or replacements are needed.
Establish and enforce safety rules
Set rules for trampoline use, and post them on or around your trampoline. Remember — posting the rules is one thing, and upholding them is another. Rules let potential users know how and when the trampoline is intended to be used. Common rules include:
- Do not use the trampoline without adult supervision: Not only are children more likely to follow rules with an adult within eyeshot, but help is also near should an injury occur.
- No children under 6: Children under the age of 6 lack the coordination and skills to safely jump on a trampoline, which results in a higher risk of injury.
- Only one user at a time: There is far more potential for collisions between people. Multiple users of varying ages also increase the risk of trampoline injuries.
- No stunts: “Stunts” like high jumps, flips, and somersaults put users at high risk for cervical injuries, sprains, broken bones, and even death.
- No use after dark: Poor visibility makes it hard for parents to supervise and it also makes it harder for trampoline users to monitor their trajectory.