If there’s a single word that has the power to strike fear into the hearts of insurance agents everywhere, it’s “trampoline.” Simply put, trampolines are dangerous. But don’t just take our word for it. Listen to the experts:
From a statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
“Most trampoline injuries occur with multiple simultaneous users on the mat. Cervical spine injuries often occur with falls off the trampoline or with attempts at somersaults or flips. Studies on the efficacy of trampoline safety measures are reviewed, and although there is a paucity of data, current implementation of safety measures have not appeared to mitigate risk substantially. Therefore, the home use of trampolines is strongly discouraged.”
From the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS):
“The number and severity of trampoline-related injuries positively correlate with the increased recreational use of trampoline equipment—those injuries are significant among all age groups.”
The medical community accepts that it is possible to reduce the risk of injury when using trampolines. Here are a few of the most common recommendations:
- Children should use trampolines only under adult supervision.
- Only one person should jump on a trampoline at a time.
- Acrobatic acts such as somersaults and flips should be avoided.
- Children under six years old should never use a trampoline.
Anyone who has ever watched children playing on a trampoline will glance at the recommendations above and think, “Yeah, right.” And here’s why: trampolines are fun because they’re dangerous. If you watch a group of kids jumping on a trampoline, you’ll notice that the biggest laughs and most joyful shouts happen when they’re all jumping together, colliding and ricocheting off one another, and performing risky tricks with often unpredictable results. In other words, the factors that make trampolines fun are the very factors that make them dangerous.
And, as the AAOS notes, “While safety measures may help minimize severe injuries, the amount of effort required to properly prepare a location, the diligence required to maintain the trampoline mat, springs and frame, and the degree of time and expertise required to properly supervise trampoline use are frequently lacking.”
See the infographic below for more details on the risks and injuries associated with trampoline use.
Ask Before You Buy
Some insurance companies are just fine with their insureds having trampolines. Others will cover trampolines if certain conditions are met, such as the requirement that the trampoline be in a fenced back yard with locking gates. Others will insist on certain levels of protection, such as a specific amount of liability coverage or the addition of an umbrella policy to cover catastrophic injuries.
Other insurance companies simply will not cover trampolines, and a company’s policy may vary from state to state. If you have a policy from a company that excludes trampoline coverage and you go ahead and purchase a trampoline anyway, you should know you’ll be shouldering the risk yourself. If your insurer finds out that you have a trampoline, it may cancel your policy. If a neighbor kid is injured on your trampoline, you would be personally responsible for the costs involved.
If your family has made the decision to get a trampoline, it’s impossible to understate the importance of making sure your insurance company provides coverage for trampolines. In addition, it’s critical that you evaluate your coverage to ensure that a catastrophic injury won’t make you lose everything.
The best plan, when considering a trampoline purchase, is to sit down with your insurance adviser and go through your policy to make sure it’s sufficient. If the company behind your current homeowners or renters policy doesn’t provide trampoline coverage, your independent insurance agent can shop around for one that does. Together, you and your agent can come up with a plan that protects you and your family at a cost you can afford.
Where insurance is concerned, the main issue with trampolines comes down to the issue of “assumed risk.” If you buy a trampoline and set it up in your yard, in the eyes of the law you’re assuming responsibility for any injuries or deaths that might occur. You actually have two areas of responsibility:
Your own children:
If your own child gets injured, the medical costs are borne by you and your health insurance company. This includes emergency room visits, X-rays, setting broken limbs, physical therapy, and other services. If something really terrible happens, like a serious spinal cord injury or death, you and your family are responsible for dealing with the aftermath.
If someone else’s child gets hurt on your trampoline, you would be liable for the child’s medical costs. Unless you choose to pay out of pocket, the cost would be shared by you and your homeowners insurance company—assuming, of course, that your homeowners insurance company covers trampoline accidents. In the case of a broken wrist or chipped tooth, the cost would be manageable. But if a neighbor kid (or even a complete stranger) gets paralyzed or killed while jumping on your trampoline, you have to be prepared for a settlement or judgment in excess of several million dollars.
Waiver of Liability?
Some homeowners, in an effort to limit their liability exposure, have chosen to adopt the strategy used by trampoline “bounce parks,” requiring their neighbors to sign a liability waiver or hold harmless agreement before their children can jump on the homeowner’s trampoline.
A quick Google search turns up several websites that offer fill-in-the-blanks forms for trampoline owners to download and print. While the idea of a waiver is a creative one, it’s unlikely that a free form would be universally valid in every state. In addition, even if a parent signed the form, it still wouldn’t remove the owner’s obligation to ensure that the equipment is safe. A broken spring, ripped mat, or incorrectly installed enclosure would still be the owner’s responsibility.
The other issue is that, for better or for worse, trampolines are kid magnets. Even with a fully fenced yard, there’s no way to ensure that the kids whose parents have signed waivers are the only children to jump on the trampoline. When the back yard is full of children, it’s easy for a new kid to get on the trampoline without you noticing. And what happens when nobody’s at home? Even if someone opens your gate or climbs your fence to get access to your trampoline when you’re away, you’re still legally liable for any injuries that person sustains.
Rules for Trampoline Owners
There are really just three rules you should follow if you’re considering buying a trampoline for your home:
Rule One: Don’t get a trampoline. Just don’t.
Rule Two: See rule number one.
Rule Three: If you choose to ignore rules one and two, play it smart. Do your homework first. Sit down with your insurance agent and make sure you have adequate insurance coverage to protect you and your family in a worst-case scenario. Increase your liability coverage and add an umbrella policy if don’t already have one, just to be safe. Set some rules about using the trampoline, and make sure you enforce them. Make sure you inspect the equipment frequently and repair it when necessary. Then cross your fingers and hope that everybody stays safe.