Landscaping To Avoid A Lawsuit: Make Your Yard Safe For Kids

 If an adult trespasser injuries himself on your property, you've got nothing to worry about, because you didn't invite him onto your land. However, if a child comes onto your property because they are intrigued by a unique feature, you could be responsible if you didn't install some security features around areas that could draw a child in. You should always work safety concerns into the final landscaping design in order to keep any trespassing children from harm, and to protect yourself from an injury lawsuit due to attractive nuisance. Some features you should include in your landscape design are:

1. Fencing.

You should always fence your property, especially areas where there might be something that attracts a child. Common attractions that should be fenced because they are dangerous to children include:

  • swimming pools. It may not be as attractive to put a fence right around your pool, especially if your pool is an integral part of your landscape design. However, you can fence the backyard that has a pool, and put a a child-proof latch on the gate. You should also cover the pool with a tarp that hooks over the edges of the pool, not just the standard bubble cover. Have your landscaper install good lighting around the pool. Not only will this make trespassers more visible, especially at night, but it will add to the ambiance of your pool area.
  • ponds and artificial waterfalls. A water feature is usually the crowning glory of a landscape. You can make it more safe for kids by making it more difficult to access with a low fence and by avoiding putting things on or near the feature that would draw attention to it. For example, adding goldfish might fascinate a child enough to draw them close to the pond, putting them at risk of drowning.
  • animals. You can make fencing for animals a beautiful part of your landscape. Consider using a stylish natural stone enclosure or a wooden privacy fence for dogs and horses, as these animals are the most likely to cause injury to curious children. You can also reduce your chances of being liable for injuries due to pets by putting up warning signs and by making sure that your pet is well-cared for and trained properly. 

2.  Safe Play Areas. 

If you have children of your own and have features in your yard like trampolines or play structures, these can still be attractive nuisances to other kids in the neighborhood. To make the possibility of injury less likely, you should create your landscape design to make these visible from the house. Any play area for kids should be enclosed, if not by a fence, then by trees and natural landscape features. Making all play areas visible from many different vantage points allows children to play freely while still under supervision from the main living space. Consider:

  • using wood chips or sand underneath play structures in order to break a fall. Never set a play structure on a hard surface like a cement patio. Using a different material in play areas helps to provide a natural boundary for kids to play in. They are less likely to stray or consider the whole yard to be their play space if it has defined lines. 
  • building play space into the design. Things like a clubhouse or a jungle gym can look contemporary and cool in the backyard. If they are built well and anchored securely, instead on just sitting on top of the grass, children are less likely to be injured. 
  • putting the trampoline in the ground. Many trampoline injuries come because kids fall off or get caught in the springs. Even though there are still safety concerns with putting the trampoline in the ground, it will draw less attention than an above ground model. Certain safety precautions need to be taken. Your landscaper will need to dig out the space and install a retainment wall with drainage around the trampoline pit. You should still use some sort of safety net around the in-ground trampoline.