Why Backyard Fun Isn’t All Fun and Games

Not only can adding new equipment pose injury risk, but it might also require you to update your insurance coverage.
Girls sitting in a treehouse

Adding equipment like trampolines and zip lines to your backyard is meant to be fun, and it certainly can be. However, these additions can also bring potential dangers for both family and guests. It can also create major insurance concerns.

If you'll be upgrading your backyard this summer, make sure to talk with your independent insurance agent right away. They might need to help you upgrade your insurance coverage. But up first, here's a breakdown of why certain backyard equipment can pose human and insurance threats.

Understanding Why Backyard Equipment and Toys Can Be Dangerous

1. Trampolines

Though trampolines are great for exercise and as a method to burn off your kids' excess energy, they can also lead to serious injuries if proper safety measures aren't followed. These guidelines can help keep your trampoline safe:

  • Installing netting around the trampoline
  • Following the manufacturer's guidelines on age and weight restrictions
  • Always supervising children who are using the trampoline
  • Keep in mind that trampolines send 100,000 kids to the ER annually 

Why they're an insurance concern:

The perceived threat of a trampoline can impact your insurance, as carriers classify them as an "attractive nuisance," and the danger only increases if you'll be having guests over to use your trampoline. According to insurance expert Jeffery Green, some homeowners insurance companies may not cover accidents from a trampoline or may require additional safety measures like fencing. Green suggests contacting your independent insurance agent before installing a trampoline to make sure your coverage is adequate.

2. Zip Lines

A zip line typically consists of one strong line fastened to two different points of support, often large trees or sturdy poles. However, poor construction, mistakes during installation, or even improper use of the zip line can lead to serious fall injuries. Homemade zip lines, in particular, carry the most risk because they don't come with professional recommendations for speed and weight restrictions.

Why they're an insurance concern:

Home insurance companies can also see zip lines as an attractive nuisance, especially if you'll be letting guests use the one at your home. But while zip line injuries can be serious and even fatal, most zip line injuries and accidents actually happen at commercial camps and courses. Still, you'll need to talk with your independent insurance agent about your homeowners coverage if you're planning to install one in your backyard.

3. Treehouses

Over time, the backyard treehouse has evolved from a few wood planks and a ladder to multi-level castles. The safety of your treehouse starts with the sturdiness of the tree you choose. Treehouses can pose risks much more serious than splinters if a child falls to the ground or attempts to jump down from one.

Why they're an insurance concern:

The Center for Injury Research and Policy of Nationwide Children's Hospital reports that about 2,800 children are injured each year in some way by treehouses. Home insurance companies realize this potential danger, and may require you to adjust your coverage in some way or take extra precautions to compensate for it. Talk with your independent insurance agent if you'll be adding a treehouse to your backyard.

4. Swing Sets

Swing sets have also evolved over time, with some of them now even including tube slides or rock climbing walls. Safe swing set building and installation requires you to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. You'll also need to inspect the structure multiple times per year to ensure that it's still safe for children to play on.

Maintain your swing set with these pro tips:

  • Check the equipment's nuts, bolts, caps, seats, suspension ropes, chains, and cables
  • Replace worn and broken equipment immediately
  • Refill mulch or other soft surfaces beneath the swing set often

Why they're an insurance concern:

Official reports show that about 50,000 children each year, or 137 per day, go to the ER for swing set and other playground equipment injuries. If you'll be having neighbors or other children over to your house to use your swing set, this can be a major liability concern. Talk to your independent insurance agent about adding a swing set to your property first.


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5. Pools and Hot Tubs

Pools and hot tubs are some of the biggest insurance concerns of all, and often come with safety measure requirements from insurance companies before you're granted coverage. Your town's local ordinances may also require locked or latched fences around our pool or motion sensor alarms to indicate when someone enters. Though swimming pools that are properly secured may not have a large effect on your premiums, additional risk factors like the depth of your pool and the presence of a diving board may add enough risk to result in increased premiums.

Why they're an insurance concern:

About 379 pool-or-spa-related deaths of children under age 15 have been reported annually for several years. Green said that insurance companies usually ask about pools on their coverage applications. If you install a pool after purchasing your homeowners insurance, be sure to contact your independent insurance agent to discuss your coverage. Some insurance companies may require fencing or other safety measures related to your pool.

Understanding the Importance of Liability Insurance Under Your Homeowners Policy

As a homeowner, you can be held responsible for third-party injuries or property damage at your home. Anything from slippery sidewalks to leaving tools and other equipment out to be tripped over can fall back on you, legally. But your homeowners insurance provides liability coverage to cover legal expenses if you end up facing a lawsuit from a third party.

Why Umbrella Insurance Is a Good Idea

If you'll be adding a pool or other potentially hazardous backyard equipment to your home, you may want to consider adding a separate policy called umbrella insurance. Umbrella insurance works to extend your homeowners insurance's existing liability coverage up to limits of $1 million or more if you choose, and is often highly affordable, especially for the amount of extra coverage it provides. 

If you get slapped with a lawsuit from another family or even multiple families after an incident on your home's zip line, swing set, trampoline, tree house, or swimming pool, you might need extra liability protection beyond what's included in your home insurance policy by default. Having a liability coverage limit of $1 million or more can greatly improve your chances of receiving the full reimbursement you need in a major lawsuit. Your independent insurance agent can further advise if adding umbrella insurance is a smart choice for you.

How Much Liability Coverage Do I Need?

There are three simple questions to ask yourself when considering how much liability coverage you really need, or if you need to add umbrella insurance. These include:

  1. What possible risks do I have?: If you're adding a pool, trampoline, or other potential danger to your home, you've increased your possible risks by a considerable amount. 
  2. What's the value of my assets?: Including all of your properties, possessions, stocks, bonds, savings, and retirement funds, the higher the value of your assets, the greater your chances of needing umbrella insurance to fully protect them.
  3. How much future income do I stand to lose?: A lawsuit can result in the loss of future income in addition to your assets, so consider how much you may need to replace if a major claim occurs.

Keep in mind how your assets or income may increase in upcoming years, and plan to get enough liability coverage to account for these changes. Your independent insurance agent can help you increase your homeowners insurance's liability coverage limits or add umbrella insurance if necessary.

Though backyard equipment is designed and intended to be fun, proper safety measures must be the first priority. Double-checking your insurance coverage also needs to be high on your to-do list before revamping your backyard. Your independent insurance agent is there to help you update your coverage or add additional policies to help keep all of your property, family members, and guests, safe. 

Why Choose an Independent Insurance Agent?

Independent insurance agents simplify the process by shopping and comparing insurance quotes for you. Not only that, but they’ll cut through the jargon and clarify the fine print so you'll know exactly what you’re getting.

Independent insurance agents also have access to multiple insurance companies, ultimately finding you the best home insurance coverage, accessibility, and competitive pricing while working for you.

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TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Jeffrey Green

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