It is important to maintain your yard and keep it safe at all times. But this summer, as Massachusetts recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, more people will likely spend more time at home. This means you must take extra care in protecting your home, your family and neighbors from common backyard injuries, such as falls, dog bite injuries and swimming pool accidents.
In Massachusetts, homeowners have a duty to make a reasonable effort to keep their property reasonably safe so lawful visitors are not injured. When a homeowner fails to maintain their property and someone is injured, this may result in a premises liability claim.
When children are involved, homeowners have a greater duty. Under attractive nuisance laws, property owners may be held liable if a young child is injured by an unsafe condition on their property, even if the child is trespassing. These laws recognize that children may not understand potential dangers or that they are trespassing.
Massachusetts Attractive Nuisance Law
M.G.L. c. 231, § 85Q states that a person who maintains an artificial condition upon his own land shall be liable for physical harm to children trespassing thereon under certain conditions.
A landowner can be held liable in part if they knew a child was likely to trespass or reasonably should have known, and if the landowner knew or reasonably should have known there was an unreasonable risk of death and serious bodily harm to children.
Protect Your Front and Backyard This Summer
Protect Your Pool
In Massachusetts, homeowners must enclose pools with fences which are a minimum of four feet and taller if necessary for safety. The fence should have a self-latching, self-closing gate and lock at least four feet off the ground. These requirements are meant to protect young children, as well as your lawful guests by slowing access down to your pool. A few steps you can take to secure your pool:
How old is your pool lock? Carefully inspect the integrity of your pool lock.
Inspect your fence. The Consumer Product Safety Commission published this pool safety guide on different types of fences and key specifications, such as how much space you should have between and under the fence panels. See page 6.
Consider a pool alarm. Your fence is your primary defense to keep young children out of your pool. Children can move quickly and drown silently, before you even know they have found their way into your pool. An alarm can help you respond quickly.
Think “layers of protection.” Planting large shrubs in front of your pool fence is one way to slow children down; another added benefit is children won’t be able to see the pool and are likely to forget about it.
At the end of the day: Cover your pool. Remove pool ladders and floats from the pool area and out of sight of children.
Restrain Your Dog
As a dog owner, you have a responsibility to take care of your pet, including to feed it and make sure it gets proper exercise.
As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to restrain your dog. Under Massachusetts law, you may be held liable if your dog bites or attacks. Here are a few situations when homeowners may be liable for dog bite injuries.
First, you may be held liable if your dog bites a lawful visitor. You may also be held liable if you leave your dog alone outside and it runs off your property and injures a passerby.
Then there are young children. Too young to realize the consequences, they can wander onto your property without invitation and your dog may bite. You may not even see the child come onto your property. But this is another situation when a Massachusetts homeowner may be held liable for a child’s dog bite injuries.
Just like drownings, dog bites and attacks are a frightening and debilitating experience, for children as well as owners. Some describe it as the worst experience of their life. Many victims and loved ones suffer post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What can you do to prevent a tragedy?
Invest in dog training. Hiring a trainer can help your dog master basic obedience skills.
Install a fence. Consider installing a regular fence around your yard. An invisible dog fence can be effective at keeping your dog on your property. However, it doesn’t prevent children from wandering onto your property. Fences can stop children or at least slow them down.
Remember you can’t predict how your dog will react. Many dog owners have said, “My dog is really good with kids,” just before the animal bites or attacks.
And the problem with young children in your neighborhood: a child may know you and your dog by name. They may routinely say hello when you walk your dog and have warm feelings about your pet. Your dog, however, may not feel or respond the same if the child approaches. If you have a dog, Breakstone, White & Gluck encourages you to secure and supervise your pet this summer. Remember, children are likely to be spending more time at home this summer and you may need to take additional steps.
If you have been injured, Breakstone, White & Gluck is experienced in representing young children and others after dog bites and attacks in Massachusetts. Please read our awards and settlements and contact us if we can assist you with a claim at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676.
$450,000 award: Child Suffers Facial Injury and Emotional Distress in Dog Bite Attack Details
$300,000 award: Elderly woman bitten by dog, which leads to infection, sepsis and wrongful death.
$150,000 award: Dog injures cyclist, causing bike crash and other injuries. Details
Use Your Backyard Shed
Pick up your yard each day. Pick up toys and bring in pool floats, accessories and towels so they don’t attract a child’s attention.
Certain toys, games and equipment should be used, then immediately locked away. These include portable pools.
To make this easier, keep a key to your backyard shed nearby at all times this summer. Put it in your cell phone case or on a lanyard around your neck so you can easily access your shed as often as you need.
Protect Your Backyard This Summer
2020 has been a challenging year. While we are all limited by Covid 19 this summer, these are steps we can all take to protect our families, neighbors and others from unnecessary injury, and to protect ourselves financially.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers specialize in premises liability claims, including those involving swimming pool accidents, dog bites injuries and child injuries. Learn more about our law firm: www.bwglaw.com.