Every parent of young children knows that they love to find trouble. Kids have a knack for putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations. This is bad enough in their homes but even worse outside, where parents cannot control the environment.
The world is full of dangerous “attractive nuisances” that act as magnets for young children. These hazards can cause children serious injuries if the owner is not careful. For example, an artificial pond with steep, slick sides and no ladder could be considered an attractive hazard because it is likely to appeal to kids but could cause them to drown if they fall in.
As a parent, you must know the risks of attractive nuisances in your neighborhood. If your child is hurt by one, you may be able to file a premises liability claim to hold the owner accountable. But first, you should understand what constitutes an attractive hazard and how California law regulates them.
Attractive Nuisances and Child Injuries
Attractive nuisances are features of a property that are dangerous but encourage children to trespass. There are many kinds of appealing hazards, but some of the most common include:
- Swimming pools: Pools often draw kids who want to swim to get out of the California heat. However, if they are improperly maintained or don’t have the required safety equipment, they are also serious risks.
- Playgrounds and equipment: Kids are naturally attracted to playgrounds. However, old or unsafely installed playground equipment can pose a serious risk.
- Abandoned or unsecured property: Many kids like to explore places that seem “off-limits.” Abandoned properties and unsecured land must be carefully inspected to ensure they don’t pose risks to child explorers.
- Hazardous substances and chemicals: Kids are naturally curious, so anything that looks or smells strange may be appealing. Dangerous substances cannot be left unsecured without putting children at risk.
- Animals and pets: Many children love animals, but some pets and livestock can be seriously dangerous. Unfriendly or territorial animals need to be kept in secure enclosures to prevent children from trying to pet them and being attacked.
All of these conditions put children at risk of serious injuries. If a child is hurt due to an attractive hazard, they may have grounds for a personal injury claim against the property’s owner.
Legal Aspects: Premises Liability
Historically, California had a specific doctrine regulating attractive nuisances, but it was removed in 1970. Now, property owners have a general duty to keep their properties in a reasonably safe condition for all foreseeable visitors, including trespassers and children. Failing to fulfill this duty may constitute negligence and provide grounds for a premises liability claim.
This duty to reasonable care includes the responsibility to regularly inspect the property and rectify or warn visitors about unsafe conditions. Owners may be liable for any injuries that happen on their property if:
- They failed to keep the property in reasonably safe conditions
- They did not adequately warn about the dangers
- They could reasonably foresee that someone would be on the property
- The dangerous conditions caused the visitor’s injury
All of these conditions need to be met for a premises liability claim to succeed. Owners are unlikely to be liable for injuries if:
- They regularly check their property for dangerous conditions but miss a new problem
- They provide clear and obvious warnings about known potential hazards like wells, cliffs, and dangerous animals
- They have taken measures to prevent people from accessing the property, such as installing fences and locked gates
It is important to note that California law no longer differentiates between types of visitors on a property. It does not matter whether someone was invited onto the property or if they were trespassing. All that matters is whether the owner knew or could foresee that someone may visit and whether they kept the property reasonably safe in accordance with that knowledge.
Additionally, California applies “comparative negligence” to many personal injury cases. Accident victims may share responsibility for their injuries if they can reasonably predict something could hurt them. For instance, an adult who climbs up a rickety playground ladder and gets hurt when they fall would likely be considered partially liable for their injuries.
Premises Liability Claims for Child Injuries
So, what does this mean for children and attractive nuisances? While the doctrine is no longer part of California law, the current premises liability regulations lead to similar results.
A property condition that meets the attractive hazard definition violates premises liability standards in two ways. First, it puts guests at risk, particularly if there are no warnings about the danger. Second, it increases the likelihood that a visitor would be on the property by appealing to children. Owners of appealing hazards must keep their properties safe or prevent access by young trespassers to meet the reasonable care standard.
Furthermore, minors are not subject to comparative liability the same way adults are. Young children do not have the same knowledge and experience as adults, so most courts consider them unable to reasonably foresee that they may be injured. As a result, property owners are more likely to be found 100% liable for dangerous conditions that hurt kids.
Talk to Expert Premises Liability Attorneys in California
Children love to explore. That can put them in dangerous situations if a property owner does not take reasonable care of their premises. If someone else’s dangerous property has injured your child, you may be able to hold them accountable for their negligence. The first step is to talk to an experienced premises liability attorney like those at the Law Office of Reuben J. Donig. Our expert team will listen to your case and help you seek compensation for your child’s injuries. Talk to us today to learn how we can help you with your child’s claim.