As people continue to stay home, agents should advise homeowners to have an umbrella insurance policy that protects both the property and the people on it.
It is easier to socially distance outside than inside, but trading risks in the house for risks in the yard will not eliminate a homeowner's exposure to potential personal injuries or home damages this summer. As people retreat to their backyard pool and the summer is prolonged by students returning to school on a part-time or virtual basis, outdoor activities may last late into the fall and even early winter.
More than 60% of home insurance policies renew between May and October. As agents guide clients in assessing their home insurance policies, they should make sure homeowners are prepared for the perils of the backyard, including these four common ones:
1) Trampolines. An estimated 100,000 people—many of whom are children—visit the emergency room due to trampoline-related injuries every year, according to NBC News. In some situations, where the negligence of the homeowner played a role in the accident, the injured person may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering via a personal injury claim filed against the property owner.
Agents should help clients understand the home insurance policy's terms and conditions around coverage for trampoline-related incidents or damage and any state-specific exceptions. Homeowners insurance coverage for trampolines may vary by state and by insurance company, and some policies restrict trampoline ownership or usage altogether.
If a visitor is injured while bouncing on a homeowner's trampoline and the owner is found legally responsible for consequent medical bills, the liability and medical payments coverage in their homeowners' policy would help cover costs.
Often, coverage limits for trampolines are not in the policy form, but homeowners should be asked to reveal the existence of a trampoline during the application process. If the homeowner initially says that no trampoline exists but a claim is made it could be denied by the insurer because of misrepresentation. Even with a covered claim, a homeowner could be moved to a more expensive, higher-risk rating category if a trampoline is discovered on the property or trampoline-related claim is made.
Agents should encourage clients to implement safety precautions on the trampoline. For example, one person at a time or no somersaults, to reduce the risk of injury. Trampolines should be taken down if there's any potential usage without adult supervision.
2) Swimming pools. Approximately 10 people die from drowning every day, with multiple more injured, according to the CDC. Children ages 1 to 4 years old have the highest drowning rates and among this age group, most drownings occur in home swimming pools.
Homeowners with pools can also be held liable when a visitor or swimmer is injured under the usual legal standard for “premises liability" in the state. Pool deck slips, falls or other injuries are also a possibility. Electrical and plumbing issues can even lead to pool fires, which not only damage the property but put people's safety at risk.
Damage to a pool is not ordinarily covered by a home insurance policy, but pools have liability risk that is covered. Agents should advise clients with a pool to buy an umbrella policy that covers pool-related liabilities in excess of any coverage provided by the home policy. Most home insurance providers reject applications to insure a home with a pool unless it is secured with a fence and in compliance with local attractive nuisance laws and regulations that require homeowners to put protections in pools to prevent injury.
Regardless of local ordinances, homeowners should build a fence around the pool with self-latching gates, use a pool cover when it's not in use, establish working and accessible grab poles, life rings and safety ropes, and upgrade drain and filling systems to modern safety standards.
In addition, agents should encourage clients to take extra precautions to prevent accidents and, of course, not allow children to swim without proper supervision.
3) Barbeques. Accidents can happen, especially when it comes to cooking outdoors. About 5,700 grill fires occur on residential property every year mainly due to malfunctioning gas grills, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires cause an annual average of $37 million in damage and thousands of emergency room visits for burns.
Agents should advise clients with grills to choose a homeowners insurance policy that provides financial protection against the following risks:
Injuries to a guest, under the liability portion of the policy, if someone is hurt as a result of a fire
In the event of a grill fire spreading on their property:
Food poisoning related to mishandled or spoiled food
4) Fire pits. Fire pits are the pinnacle of outdoor ambiance all summer long and into the fall. However, they pose a burn risk for homeowners, guests and especially children.
More than 5,000 outdoor fire pit or heater accidents occurred in 2017—more than triple the number ten years ago—according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. If a fire pit is not covered in a client's homeowners insurance and the victim of the burn requires medical care, the homeowner will be held liable for the costs.
Agents should talk to their clients about any open flame device installed on the homeowner's property and then review their homeowners insurance coverage to determine if any changes are necessary. If the fire pit increases the value of the homeowner's property, agents should ensure the insurance coverage limits are high enough to help pay for repairs or replacement.
It is also a good idea to review the current policy's liability coverage to ensure clients are protected if they are found legally responsible for a guest's fire pit injuries.
Homeowners must ensure they're properly insured for summer fun. As people continue to stay home and the warm weather continues into the early fall, agents should advise homeowners to have an umbrella insurance policy that protects both the property and the people on it.
Bill Martin is president and CEO, Plymouth Rock Home Insurance Group.