People buy trampolines for many reasons, including exercise, recreation, and even competitive sports. While they can be beneficial in many ways, there are significant risks to health and safety associated with trampolines. Of course, many trampoline accidents and injuries occur because people use them incorrectly or in dangerous ways. A backyard trampoline can attract neighborhood children who may use a trampoline without needed supervision. However, accidents can happen even during normal use of trampolines.
Common trampoline accidents include:
- Falling off the side of device onto the ground, or down to an even lower height if the trampoline is elevated;
- Accidents from using the trampoline to vault over objects or into a swimming pool;
- Colliding with another person using the trampoline;
- Attempting to perform advanced maneuvers without proper training and supervision.
What Are Some Common Trampoline Injuries?
Trampoline injuries commonly include various types of muscle strains, and sprains, but more serious injuries can happen in which the user sustains head, neck, or back injuries. These injuries often result from landing unsafely on the trampoline.
Broken bones, spinal injuries, traumatic brain injury and permanent neurological damage can result from accidents involving trampolines. A report in 2014 noted that an estimated 288,876 people, most of them children, went to hospital emergency rooms with broken bones sustained in trampoline accidents between 2002 and 2011. The cost of treating these injuries exceeded $400 million.
Including all injuries, and not just fractures, hospital emergency rooms in the U.S. were visited by more than 1 million people who had been injured in trampoline accidents during those 10 years. The total cost of treating trampoline injuries in emergency rooms was just over $1 billion.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Trampoline Injury?
Various parties may be held liable for injuries sustained by a person using a trampoline. These may include:
- Trampoline Manufacturers: If the trampoline is defective and the defect directly causes the accident and injury, then a manufacturer can be liable on a theory of strict product liability;
- Professional Trainers and Coaches: Competitive trampoline instructors or coaches might be liable on a theory of negligence, if they have been negligent in their training or supervision of trampoline users;
- Owners of Trampolines: The owner of a trampoline could be liable for injuries that occur on or around a trampoline if the owner’s negligence was a direct cause of the accident that resulted in injury.
By far, the majority of trampolines are still located at private residences. It is in the backyards of average homeowners that most of these accidents and injuries occur. Children and teens are often injured while jumping on the backyard trampoline of a neighbor or friend.
Trampoline parks have become popular attractions in recent years, but generally a person must sign a detailed waiver of liability to use a public trampoline facility. Local cities typically do not want to risk the potential liability of operating a trampoline park, which is why these types of attractions are mostly privately owned.
The size of the medical bills for treating a given injury can determine how easy or difficult it may be to recover compensation for injuries sustained in a trampoline accident. If the expense for medical treatment is small, a person’s healthcare insurance policy may pay for them without any questions. If the victim recovers compensation without problems, then no lawsuit or claim would be necessary.
On the other hand, if the bills for treating the injury are quite expensive, a person is likely to receive a communication from their healthcare insurer explaining that the insurance company is contesting the charges. This means that the person should communicate with the homeowner’s insurance company that insures the property where the trampoline is located and the injury occurred.
Of course, a person would need to approach the homeowner who owns the trampoline and ask them for information about their homeowner’s liability insurance coverage. Specifically, a person would ask if they have trampoline liability insurance. After the homeowner gives the person their insurance information, the person can contact the insurance company and see what they are willing to cover.
Although rare, it is also possible for a homeowner to pay a person directly for any medical bills and expenses from injuries suffered on a trampoline to avoid a lawsuit or even to avoid a claim against their homeowner’s insurance.
In the ideal situation, the homeowners insurance policy of the homeowner who owns the trampoline has trampoline liability insurance coverage or a personal umbrella policy (PUP). This means the homeowner communicated with the insurance company about the trampoline when they bought it, and the financial protection is there for both the person injured and the homeowner.
If the homeowner does not have specific trampoline coverage or a PUP, the liability for paying compensation for the injuries then shifts to the homeowner’s basic insurance policy.
Unfortunately, in light of the many accidents associated with privately-owned trampolines, many homeowner’s insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for trampoline-related injuries. If this is the case, then their insurance company is not responsible for paying compensation for the loss from injuries caused by a trampoline accident. Therefore, it falls to the homeowner themselves to personally pay for damages.
As with any injury, trampoline injuries can be expensive to treat. Some of the medical costs that would have to be paid include the following:
- Emergency room treatment;
- Professional injury evaluations by the relevant medical specialists;
- Treating with casts for broken bones;
- Possible stays in the hospital;
- Follow-up visits to doctors;
- Physical therapy.
Occasionally, fractured bones require screws, which has an impact on the cost of the treatment. This is only a partial list of the expenses for which a person may seek compensation from their health insurance provider for a trampoline injury.
Again, as noted above, healthcare insurance companies usually do not pay for the costs of injuries from an accident without asking about what happened. Health insurance companies are likely to question whether the company should pay for the medical bills, if they know that the injuries occurred in a trampoline accident.
A trampoline injury lawsuit may result in an award of damages for costs associated with the injury, such as hospital expenses or lost wages. However, the trampoline owner may have defenses. For example, if the injured person signed a liability waiver, this could protect the trampoline owner from liability. Or, if the injured person assumed the risk of injury, then the trampoline owner would not be liable for damages.
How Can a Trampoline Owner Avoid Liability for Injuries?
The U.S. Product Safety Commission recommends that trampoline owners take the following steps to ensure safe use of their trampoline. If they take these steps, they minimize the chance that they could be found liable for negligence if someone is injured on their trampoline:
- Allow only one person at a time to use a trampoline;
- Do not allow users to do somersaults;
- Install shock absorbing pads that completely cover its springs, hooks, and frame and never allow anyone to use the trampoline unless the pads are in place;
- Position the trampoline away from structures, trees, and other play areas;
- Do not allow a child under 6 years of age to use a full-sized trampoline;
- Do not position a ladder near the trampoline because it might give unsupervised access to small children;
- Always supervise use of the trampoline by children;
- Prevent falls from a trampoline with a trampoline enclosure.
Taking these steps would reduce the chances that a homeowner would be liable for injuries sustained by a person who was involved in an accident on their trampoline.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Trampoline Injury or Liability?
Trampoline injuries can sometimes be quite serious and may require legal action. You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer in your area if you need assistance or guidance with a trampoline injury situation. Your attorney can help investigate the accident to determine what caused it and what your options are.
Also, if you need to negotiate with a neighbor or their insurance company, your lawyer can represent you. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, your lawyer can make any required court appearances on your behalf.