Ah, summertime. Long days, warm sunshine, and afternoons in the pool or relaxing as the kids and their friends take turns doing tricks off the diving board. No doubt, you’ve cringed watching at least a few of those stunts because you know someone can get hurt if they aren’t careful or if they misjudge their distance from the diving board.
Pools are great fun but they also bring some additional insurance considerations and many homeowners have asked how much having a diving board can increase insurance rates.
The answer is that it varies. Some insurers aren’t particularly concerned if you have a diving board, assuming that it’s professionally installed and isn’t a high-dive board like they use in the Olympics. The latter could obviously increase risk substantially. Some other insurers won’t write the policy at all due to the presence of a diving board. However, insurers are also aware that kids (or adults) don’t need a diving board to dive into a pool and that pool-related injuries can happen with or without a diving board.
Chances are good that any increase in insurance rates due to your diving board would be nearly negligible. Insuring the total liability associated with owning a pool is a larger consideration, as is being certain that your insurer covers pool with diving boards.
Two decades ago, nearly all pools had diving boards. A much smaller percentage of pools have diving boards now because the boards themselves have become stiffer (read: less fun) due to liability concerns and the simple fact that diving boards take up a lot of real estate in a pool.
What is an Attractive Nuisance?
As it relates to insurance — and by extension, lawsuits — an attractive nuisance is a risk that attracts people to it. Generally, these are improvements we add to our homes that also bring a higher level of injury risk. Pools are one type of attractive nuisance, but pools aren’t alone in earning this dubious designation. Other common attractive nuisances include trampolines, fountains and ponds, playground equipment, and treehouses. What all of these have in common is that they can be potentially dangerous and that children may find them too tempting to resist.
Adding a diving board to your pool doesn’t necessarily make it more tempting for young neighborhood explorers but having a diving board can obviously increase the risk of injury.
The general risk of injury or drowning associated with pools as well as their attractiveness, particularly for children, is why many municipalities and insurers require “pool code” fencing, which is fencing that is typically at least 6 ft tall and designed in such a way that it is difficult to climb. Surrounding the pool area at your home with pool code fencing is an essential first step to reducing the risk of accidental injury or drownings. Pool code fencing doesn’t make entry impossible but can serve as an effective deterrent in most cases and can limit situations where neighborhood kids might be tempted to test out your diving board.
Practice full disclosure
Your home insurance policy is a contract. The insurer provides coverage for specified risks up to your chosen coverage limits and based on the information they have to make an underwriting decision. This is the part where some homeowners can get into a difficult situation by not making the insurer aware of risks or by misrepresenting risks.
If you have a pool, tell your insurer about your pool. If you have a trampoline, tell your insurer about your trampoline. If you have a diving board, tell your insurer about the diving board as well. In some cases, the insurer may not cover that specific risk and won’t write the policy. In other cases where the risk can be covered, it’s an opportunity to examine your liability coverage limits to be sure you’re as covered as you need to be.
Is there a risk of cancellation?
The biggest risk of cancellation comes from a material misrepresentation. For a larger example, if you didn’t mention that you have a pool and the insurer learns that you do have a pool, the risk the insurer is being asked to cover has changed. The same concept applies to diving boards. In some cases, a diving board isn’t a risk the insurer covers and having a diving board can lead to a cancellation notice.
Cancellations can be costly and inconvenient. It’s best to find insurance on your terms rather than being forced back into the market after being canceled. Nearly every insurer will ask if you have ever had a policy canceled in the past. They will, of course, also ask why.
It’s always best to disclose your diving board in the first place to avoid the potential for a problem later. If you’re shopping for insurance and a particular insurer doesn’t insure homes with diving boards, you can choose another insurer.
It’s common for insurers to do property inspections as well. In most cases, they don’t need to enter your home and you might not even know that an inspector came by. Insurers also spot-check homes on policies that are already in force. If there’s a diving board at your home and you forgot to mention it when the policy was written, there’s a good chance the topic will come up again if the insurer doesn’t cover diving boards.
Increased liability risk
The topic of diving boards and pools, in general, is a healthy introduction to liability concerns. People can be injured at your home in any of a number of ways but some risks are “riskier” than others and it’s important not just to know that you have coverage — but also that you have enough coverage. The bodily injury liability coverage limits on your homeowners insurance policy can be addressed in two ways.
In the event of a lawsuit or liability due to bodily injury, your homeowners insurance can cover both the liability and the legal expenses associated with the claim. In most cases, the cost of your defense is outside of your policy limits, which means that the amount of coverage available to pay for a liability claim is not reduced by the cost of your legal defense.
Increased personal liability limits
Most homeowners insurance policies come with a minimum of $100,000 in liability coverage. The cost associated with injuries can easily exceed this relatively small amount of coverage, so many insurers and agents recommend starting with at least $300,000 in liability coverage. However, it’s important to understand that if your liability is higher than your coverage limit, any liability amount that exceeds your coverage limit becomes your responsibility to pay.
For example, let’s say you have $300,000 in liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy and you’re found liable for injuries to someone visiting your home. Let’s also say that your liability for those injuries, which will require ongoing rehabilitation, is $500,000. Your home insurer will only pay the first $300,000 of your $500,000 liability. The remaining $200,000 still must be paid, which may have to come from savings, investments, or an unplanned liquidation of assets. If none of those options are sufficient to cover the $200,000 liability, it’s possible for a court to attach your paycheck, potentially affecting your ability to cover your normal living expenses.
Fortunately, increasing your personal liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy is one of the more affordable changes you can make to your policy. Liability insurance becomes less expensive per dollar of coverage as you purchase more coverage.
Personal Umbrella Policy
As an alternative to higher personal liability coverage limits on your homeowners insurance policy, you can also consider a personal umbrella insurance policy. Much like its name suggests, a personal umbrella policy can extend coverage to multiple policies. In personal insurance, these policies are typically your homeowners insurance policy and your auto policy.
Much like choosing higher coverage limits for your homeowners insurance policy, extending your liability coverage through an umbrella policy is more affordable than you might think and an umbrella policy introduces some new protections that some homeowners insurance policies do not cover, such as personal injury protection.
There are a few key takeaways that are important to understand if you have a pool — and especially if your pool has a diving board:
- It isn’t likely that your diving board will increase your insurance rates by a sizable amount. However, some insurers do not cover homes with diving boards at all.
- It’s important to disclose that you have a diving board at the time that your policy is being written. If your insurer finds out later that you have a diving board and does not provide coverage for homes with diving boards, you could find yourself facing a policy cancellation.
- Liability coverage isn’t just a consideration for homes with pools or homes with diving boards. Accidental injuries can happen in any one of a number of ways and there’s always a possibility that those injuries can result in large liability judgments.
If your home has a diving board and you’re unsure if you have coverage or are concerned that your policy may be subject to cancellation, reach out to schedule a time for a policy review. If you’re concerned that your personal liability coverage might need a tune-up, let’s talk. There’s usually a best way to address all of your coverage concerns. It all begins with a conversation.