With summer fast approaching, a very timely question from Kate in Saginaw:
“I just built a pool in my backyard, and I have a feeling that my house is going to be the house in the neighborhood at which all the kids want to hang out this summer. I’m worried about the liability of having other people’s kids swim in my pool. Should I have parents sign some sort of liability waiver and release, like the one you sign at those indoor trampoline parks?”
I’ve been both a parent and owner of a swimming pool for almost thirteen years, and I can tell you there is a definitely an uptick in the number of kids showing up at our door in swim suits with towels in hand once the temperatures start to hit the 90s.
So here’s the bad news. The greatest amount of financial and legal risk you will ever take with regard to your home is owning a swimming pool. What risks? Serious personal injury and wrongful death for a start. This is especially true when it comes to children, whether you invited them or not. You need to assume that if someone is injured or drowns in your pool, you are going to be sued.
Before we start talking about need for liability waivers and releases, you need to make sure you have done two things first, secured the pool and checked your insurance coverage.
To borrow a football analogy my husband loves to use, the best defense is a good offense. Take steps to protect children and others from being injured or accidentally drowning in your pool. Here are the steps my husband and I have taken:
- We have a four foot tall fence that completely surrounds the pool.
- Both the gates to our yard and our pool are self-closing, and the latches are high enough so a preschooler or toddler can’t reach them.
- Both my husband and I are certified in CPR.
- Anytime there are kids in the pool, one adult is designated as the “lifeguard” (no alcohol, eyes on the pool, no chit chat with anyone else).
- Toys come out of the pool with the kids.
- If any child is missing, the first place we look is the pool.
- No one is allowed in the pool unless either myself or my husband is home. Babysitters, grandmas, etc. are not allowed to let the kids in the pool.
Also, call your home owner’s insurance policy carrier and let them know you have installed the pool so your coverage can be adjusted to cover the additional liability resulting from owning a pool.
Liability coverage for a pool may be excluded from your homeowner’s insurance policy if you haven’t taken certain steps to make your pool safe. For example, many insurers require you to have your pool (or yard) fenced. Many insurers may also deny coverage if you have a diving board or slide.
If your pool is not adequately covered by your existing insurance policy, you will have to shop around for new insurance to cover the pool.
So let’s say you have taken steps to secure the pool and you have adequate insurance coverage. Would you be even more secure from liability if you had everyone sign a liability waiver and release?
So what is a liability waiver and release? A liability waiver and release, if enforceable, would prevent someone from suing you in the event something goes wrong and their child is injured. For more information on the enforceability of liability waivers and releases, check out Liability Waivers and Releases for Dummies.
Would having everyone who uses the pool sign one lessen your financial and legal risks? Yes, assuming you had a lawyer draft it and it’s enforceable.
Do my husband and I, who are both lawyers, have our guests sign a waiver and release?
We take our responsibilities as pool owners seriously and that’s good enough for us. We’ve taken steps to secure our pool and we have adequate insurance coverage. Despite being lawyers, we’re not the litigious type and we want guests to feel welcome and safe in our home.
I hope that answers your question Kate.
What would you think if a parent asked you to sign a liability waiver and release before your kid could swim at their house? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.
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