Insurance

Trampolines: Worth the risk?

DATE | 06/03/13
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Summer’s coming, temperatures are rising, the sun is out…time to look forward to more outdoor activities. Chances are you have some outdoor toys you’re looking forward to using.

But if your plans for summer fun include using a backyard trampoline, make sure you know the risks and realities that come with it. Here’s what you need to consider.

Accidents happen

There is a surprising amount of power that can be generated from jumping on a trampoline—children can bounce up to 30 feet, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC estimates that in 2011 there were 83,300 hospital emergency room-treated injuries associated with trampolines.

Injuries are commonly caused by:

  • Colliding with another person on the trampoline.
  • Landing improperly while jumping or doing stunts on the trampoline.
  • Falling or jumping off the trampoline.
  • Falling on the trampoline springs or frame.

Head and neck injuries account for 10–17% of all trampoline-related injuries. These often happen with falls and failed somersaults or flips and can be the most catastrophic of all trampoline injuries suffered.

An “attractive nuisance”

You may think of trampolines as just a fun way for the family to get some exercise. But from an insurance perspective, they’re considered an attractive nuisance—something that is likely to entice children and could pose a risk of injury. Other examples include swimming pools, discarded appliances, and abandoned cars.

As the owner of the trampoline, you have the burden of taking adequate measures to protect children. Even if someone comes over and uses the trampoline without your knowledge, you may be liable for any potential injury they may suffer from it.

Will insurance cover you?

If you have a trampoline or are considering purchasing one, talk to your insurer about your home policy coverage. Typically, insurance companies handle them in one of four ways:

No exclusions. The insurance company doesn’t place any restrictions on trampoline ownership or usage in accordance with your home policy.

Coverage with safety precautions. An insurance company may include coverage if you have pads to cover the trampoline springs, a net enclosure for the sides, and/or other safety precautions.

A trampoline exclusion. Many insurance companies consider trampolines to be too hazardous to insure. This means no matter who gets injured on the trampoline or how they get injured, the insurance company will not cover those claims.

Refusal to insure the home. Some companies will not write a home policy if there is a trampoline on the premises.

Since trampolines represent a higher risk of liability, you may want to consider purchasing personal umbrella insurance. This may extend your liability protection beyond your existing home policy limit.

However, don’t just assume that because you have one or both of these policies that you are covered. Under some circumstances, you may not be. Contact your insurer so you understand your policy guidelines.

Considerations for renters

Your landlord has the obligation to keep the property reasonably safe for tenants. Since trampolines are considered an attractive nuisance, he or she may risk liability costs for allowing one. Check your rental agreement or speak with your landlord to find out whether or not a trampoline is allowed on the property.

If you decide to take the leap

If you must have a trampoline, put safety first. Take these steps recommended by the CPSC to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
  • Do not attempt or allow somersaults because landing on the head or neck can cause paralysis.
  • Do not use the trampoline without shock-absorbing pads that completely cover its springs, hooks, and frame.
  • Place the trampoline away from structures, trees, and other play areas.
  • No child under 6 years of age should use a full-size trampoline. Do not use a ladder with the trampoline because it can provide unsupervised access to small children.
  • Supervise children at all times.
  • Trampoline enclosures may help prevent injuries from falls.

Regardless of the precautions put in place, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the home use of trampolines. Their research shows many injuries occur even with reported adult supervision. Although trampoline injury rates have been decreasing somewhat in recent years, their 2012 study concluded that current safety measures have not significantly reduced the risk involved.

The decision to purchase or keep a trampoline comes down to risk versus reward. While they may seem appealing as a fun summer activity, know the safety risks as well as the legal and financial risks to you and ask yourself: Are they worth it?