With warm temperatures finally hitting the Coulee Region, many residents are seeking refuge in their pools or at least dreaming of installing one.
From a legal perspective, the prospect of pool ownership naturally leads to questions about liability. Any time someone is injured on your property, you face the possibility of a claim being made against you. And the reality is that pools create hazards that don’t exist when pools aren’t there. Simply put, pools present more ways for someone, particularly younger children, to get injured.
Further, it doesn’t matter whether that person is an invited guest or a trespasser, you can still be held liable for injuries that happen on your property.
That doesn’t mean you should abandon your summertime dream of floating on your own little private man-made ocean. It just means you need to be very thorough in taking precautions. Here’s a checklist to protect you (and others) as much as possible.
- Enclose your pool. Surround the area with a tall privacy fence that is difficult to scale and hides the temptation from youngsters. Also, be sure to have a latched gate. A latched gate that you can lock is even better.
- Talk with your insurance agent. Tell your agent you have a pool and take steps to ensure injuries occurring due to the pool are covered. If you have homeowners insurance that covers damages against you for use of the pool, your insurance company will defend you against any related lawsuits. Just remember that if damages exceed the limits of your coverage you will be personally responsible for the difference, so you may also want to consider umbrella coverage. Additionally, your insurance company may impose some pool safety requirements to keep your policy in force.
- Meet all building codes. If you are presented with a claim, any evidence you can provide that indicates you took all necessary steps to minimize hazards will work in your favor.
- Maintain your pool. Make sure it remains in good working order: that drains, pumps and filters are functioning properly and a power safety cover is in place when the pool is not in use.
- Use common sense. Don’t allow children to swim without supervision. If you own a pool, take CPR/CCR classes, and keep lifesaving equipment within easy reach of the pool. If you have young children or live near young children, you may also want to consider adding pool alarms. And don’t leave floaties or toys in the pool.
If someone is injured because of your pool — whether as an invited guest or a trespasser — and sues you, your best defense is taking all reasonable measures to keep your property safe. While “reasonable” is open to interpretation, the more steps you take, the better. Better yet, you’re far more likely to avoid injuries in the first place.
By Brian Weber, attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For a La Crosse WI personal injury lawyer, call Brian at 608-784-5678.