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Liability for Your Backyard Trampoline

The weather has finally warmed and summer is just around the corner. Soon, the school year will be coming to an end and backyards will be filled with children playing - and jumping on trampolines. If you have a trampoline in your own backyard, there are some liability issues you should consider.

The number of trampoline injuries is on the rise. According to a recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ("CPSC") safety alert, there were 83,300 hospital emergency room-treated injuries associated with trampolines in 2011. According to the commission, most of these injuries involve colliding with another person, landing improperly while doing jumps or stunts, falling or jumping off the trampoline, or falling on the trampoline springs or frame.

The alarming rate of trampoline-related injuries caused the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue an updated statement on trampoline safety last September, calling the popular piece of backyard play equipment "intrinsically dangerous" and strongly discouraging its use. Similar policy statements have been issued by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, The Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine.

Consequently, insurance companies have started to take notice. Many homeowner liability insurance policies now exclude trampolines from coverage, or provide coverage only upon payment of an additional premium and proof that certain safety measures have been put in place (e.g. safety nets, fences limiting access, etc.). Some insurers also recommend purchasing an umbrella policy to provide additional protection.

Why? Because when a child gets injured jumping on the trampoline of a friend, neighbor or even a family member, the parents of that child often look to the trampoline owner - and his/her insurance company - to pay for the medical bills and other losses associated with the injury. Given the serious nature of some of the injuries which can occur, particularly to a young child, those losses can be substantial. In fact, one report from 2006 estimated the cost of medical, legal, insurance and disability expenses resulting from trampoline accidents as exceeding $270 million a year; that number has likely only increased since that time.

Depending on the facts of a particular case, there is substantial risk that a homeowner could be held liable for those types of injuries and losses under Colorado's Premises Liability Act. Accordingly, it is important for homeowners to be aware of this risk and - if they continue to have a backyard trampoline - take certain precautions: (1) check with their insurance company to make sure they have coverage and that it is sufficient to cover the risk; (2) implement the safety precautions urged by the CPSC, such as providing adequate supervision, limiting the number of children jumping, disallowing somersaults and other stunts, and utilizing enclosures and pads; and (3) consider requiring the parents of any children using the trampoline to sign a legally valid release and waiver form.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding potential trampoline liability or claims, Wick & Trautwein, LLC has several knowledgeable attorneys experienced in these types of issues who can assist you. Please give us a call at 970-482-4011.

Written by Kimberly B. Schutt, Esq.

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