How can homeowners lower their liability risk?

The word lawsuit is enough to strike fear into anyone’s heart. No homeowner wants to think about being sued, or about someone getting hurt on their property. But the reality is that these things happen, and they can happen all-too-easily. Homeowners who have pools, trampolines, or dogs can face higher liability risk. So, what’s a homeowner to do to lower their liability risk? We’ll go over a few helpful tips.

3 sources of liability risk for homeowners.

1. Trampolines and pools.

Trampolines and swimming pools can be a lot of fun, but they also present a good deal of risk. As a result, some insurance companies aren’t crazy about insuring homes with these “attractive nuisances”, which get their name because they tend to draw people to them (small children especially).

Children don’t exactly have a sense of self-preservation yet, so they might not really recognize the danger in these things. And if a child gets hurt because they decided to sneak onto your property for a bounce on the trampoline or a dip in the pool, you could be held liable – yes, even if you didn’t know they were there.

(For pools, some insurance companies accept and extend your liability, but you’ll probably need to have a fenced-in yard. For trampolines, you’ll probably need to have a net surrounding the trampoline to prevent any unplanned cannonballs over the side.)

2. Dogs.

Your dog can also increase your liability risk. Dogs are wonderful creatures, but insurance companies worry about them biting people (and they can be especially concerned about certain breeds.) The risk of dog bites can increase your liability as a homeowner.

3. The driveway and front steps.

Huh? How does that make sense? We were just talking about big things like trampolines and pools. But the thing is that your driveway, while it’s a convenient place to leave a car, can also become treacherous if there are uneven spots that could cause someone to trip. The front steps can also become a dastardly trip hazard if they’re uneven. Someone could catch a toe on the step and take a major spill.

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Lowering your liability risk.

Though pools, trampolines, and even the driveway come with a good deal of risk, there are ways you can lower your liability.

1. Secure the pool.

  • Have safety fencing around the pool. Ideally, the gate would be self-closing and self-locking.
  • Cover the pool if you’re not using it.
  • Supervise all swimmers.
  • Have life-saving equipment by the pool.
  • Don’t allow roughhousing or running around the pool.
  • Consider taking lifeguarding, CPR, and first-aid courses. If you have teenagers, you might want to get them to take these courses when they’re old enough.
  • Have posted pool rules that you go over with guests and kids.
  • Steer clear of grates and filters.
  • Don’t swim for 30 mins if you see or hear lightning or thunder.
  • Make sure your kids take swimming lessons from a qualified instructor.
  • If you’re hosting a party, have a few people keep an eye on everyone. These people should not partake in “adult beverages” as they supervise.

2. Have trampoline safety.

  • Always make sure that those who jump are properly supervised.
  • Have a one-at-a-time rule. Yes, though piling a bunch of children onto the trampoline might seem like a blast to the kids, only let one small child onto the trampoline at a time.
  • No kids under age 6. Sorry, little ones – those younger than six should not bounce.
  • Move the ladder. Take the ladder away from the trampoline so kids can’t just climb up. At least you’ll hinder them.
  • No flips. Sure, flips sound like fun. But someone could land wrong and hurt their neck.
  • No vaulting. No jumping from the trampoline to other objects.
  • Have safety padding to cover springs, hooks, and frames so no one gets their fingers pinched or cut.
  • Make sure the trampoline is on stable ground away from trees.
  • Have safety netting. And we’ll say it again – have safety netting.
  • Make sure the trampoline is safe and sound before people jump.

3. Maintain your walkways, stairs, porch, and so on.

It’s really important that you maintain your driveway and walkway. Make sure there are no uneven cracks or bumps that could cause someone to trip and get hurt. And the same goes for your front steps – make sure that none of the steps are uneven or present a tripping hazard. You don’t want anyone to go flying, especially onto an unforgiving surface like concrete or brick.

4. Don’t forget the dog.

  • Socialize your dog. Give your dog the opportunity to experience different situations and people so they learn not to be nervous in new social settings.
  • Train good behavior. Your dog should behave all the time. If the dog shows any aggression (even if it’s playful) get them to cut it out.
  • Don’t bring your dog into social situations if you don’t know they’ll be okay with it.
  • Spay and neuter. This reduces a dog’s desire to wander and it can reduce their aggression to both people and other dogs.
  • Train your dog to walk nicely on the leash and listen well.

Consider higher levels of liability insurance.

If you have a pool, trampoline, or a dog, you may want to consider raising your levels of liability insurance. Find out what your premium would be if you raised your limits of liability. You might be surprised to find that the change in the cost of your insurance isn’t actually that much, especially when you weigh it against how much extra insurance you’ll have. We live in a very lawsuit-happy society, so it’s important to be prepared and have enough insurance to protect you if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of one.

Another thing to think about is a personal umbrella policy. This can provide you with additional liability insurance that goes above and beyond the underlying home insurance policy. Basically, it sits on top of your other insurance policy like an umbrella. And if you ever face a claim that goes above the limits on that underlying policy, your umbrella policy can jump in and come to the rescue.

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So, that’s the deal with how homeowners can lower their liability risk! Wondering if you have the right insurance for your situation? Talk to one of our agents and we’ll help you out with getting the right insurance to protect you and your family. Fill out our online form, chat with us, or give us a call!