By Remmie Butchko, CIC
Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc.
Silver Spring, MD
When most of our customers purchase insurance, they consider “what ifs” about things that could happen TO them. What if someone hits me in an automobile accident? What if my house catches on fire? What if a tree falls through my garage?
It is also important for insurance buyers to consider accidents that could happen because OF them.
As much as we all love them, most homes contain two things that could get you into trouble….your pets (dog bites, etc.) and more importantly, YOUR CHILDREN!
We all do our best to raise happy, intelligent, responsible children. Here are some cold, hard facts that you can never avoid altogether and always need to take into consideration.
Kids are crappy drivers. I have found a fear not previously known now that my daughter has her Learner’s Permit. No more theme parks for us, we just go out to the driveway and practice parallel parking. It doesn’t matter if a new driver is Mario Andretti’s grandchild; he or she is going to be a crappy driver at first. According to 2010 CDC statistics, drivers between ages of 15-24 years of age accounted for 30% of vehicle costs and injuries from automobile accidents.
Kids have parties. Now that I am in my mid-40s, I have determined that it is finally safe to confess to my parents some of the things we did while they were away. The problem with kids and parties is that the first time a party is pulled-off successfully, more tend to follow, and they typically continue until something bad happens. Parents can be held liable if alcohol is at the party (even criminally liable), injuries that occur at the home (falls, games, cooking equipment, fights, etc.), property that is damaged, vehicular accidents on the premises or leaving from the party.
Kids like to play. No matter how careful you are (a) every house has something a child can play with and (b) they will always figure out a way to injure themselves. It could be a simple as climbing on a woodpile or using a retaining wall as a balance beam. When you bring swimming pools (see “Kids have parties” above), trampolines, basketball courts, swings, bikes, skateboards, etc. into the equation things can really get interesting. Older children like even bigger, more dangerous toys like ATVs, snowmobiles, wave-runners, etc.
Kids play with fire. At a very young age we learned that if you want to make a volcano in the sandbox with your friends, using gasoline to make flames come out of the top is a very bad idea. When you “fill” a volcano that is made out of sand it holds A LOT of gasoline, my friends. Extreme property damage and injuries result from playing with fire. This applies whether your child may be at your home or perhaps at a friend’s house (yes, you could still be liable if your child starts a fire outside of your home). According to the National Fire Protection Association there were 860 civilian injuries and $235million in property damages involving children playing with fire.
While this list is not intended to be all-inclusive, I am going to combine two items for the final entry. It is the fastest-growing and probably hardest to control out of any of the other items noted above.
Kids love Social Media + Kids say stupid stuff. Combined these two items can be very dangerous and the lawsuits are piling-up. Any chance that your child ever made a comment about (a) another child, (b) another parent, (c) one of their teachers or coaches, (d) race, religion, gender (e) incriminating activities they performed or participated in? Probably not, right? Of course they have made inappropriate comments because kids say stupid stuff. The problem is now when they say stupid stuff it is “heard” by many more people via social media, it is in writing, and it is permanent. Lastly, because email/social media lack any communications involving body language and tone of voice, it is even easy for seemingly innocent postings to be misconstrued. Social media is not conducive to writing intended to be sarcastic or joking in nature.
While there is nothing that we can do as parents to prevent these situations, altogether, it is important to be vigilant in minimizing the risks our children may pose to both themselves and the community. It is also important to recognize the ways your children can get you sued when purchasing the appropriate insurance products and selecting prudent limits of liability insurance.