Every year, around 100,000 people (many of them children) visit an emergency room because of trampoline-related injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the most common causes of trampoline injuries are:
Homeowners may be found at fault when a trampoline-related injury occurs on their property. In the sections that follow, we'll identify some safety precautions homeowners can take to reduce the likelihood of a trampoline-related injury, and to reduce the likelihood of liability. Then we'll turn to the legal theories under which an injured person may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a homeowner for injuries resulting from a trampoline accident.
From a legal standpoint for trampoline owners, taking safety precautions is beneficial for two reasons. First, it reduces the likelihood that anyone will get hurt on or around a trampoline. Second, even if someone does become injured, the homeowner will be more likely to prevail in court because he or she will be able to argue that all of the appropriate safety precautions were taken.
To maximize trampoline safety, the CPSC has this advice for parents and homeowners:
Liability for trampoline injuries is very situation-specific. But generally speaking, a trampoline owner will be liable for injuries that occur on or around a trampoline if the owner's negligence played a significant role in causing the injuries.
Negligence. In a variety of situations, homeowners and others have a legal obligation to exercise appropriate care when it comes to the safety of people who are visiting their property. Anyone who breaches that duty may be deemed negligent in the eyes of the law, and may be on the legal hook for any resulting injuries. (This type of fault is often based on the legal principle of premises liability.)
When it comes to a backyard trampoline, homeowners have a duty to take reasonable steps to make sure the equipment is in good condition and is being used properly. A homeowner's failure to adhere to the trampoline safety precautions discussed above might amount to a breach of this legal duty, in the eyes of a court. For example, a property owner might be deemed negligent for allowing young children to play on an old trampoline even though it has a dangerous metal frame exposed, or for allowing children to use the trampoline without supervision.
In some states, a trampoline owner may be liable for injuries even if he or she takes reasonable safety precautions. In those states, a trampoline is said to be an "attractive nuisance" which gives rise to a property owner's heightened duty to protect kids from injury, and that's often true even when children are technically trespassing.
Causation. For a property owner to be liable for trampoline-related injuries, the owner's negligence must have actually caused the injuries. For example, imagine an owner leaves a small ladder next to a trampoline. A 14-year-old child from the neighborhood uses the trampoline and becomes injured. The owner may have acted negligently by leaving the ladder next to the trampoline, since small children could use it to access the trampoline. But the negligence probably did not actually cause the injuries in this instance. The 14-year-old child could have easily accessed the trampoline without using a ladder. So, the negligence could be said to be unrelated to the resulting injuries, and the homeowner might not necessarily be liable.
Rules regarding trampoline injury liability vary depending on the circumstances of the accident, and sometimes based on state law. This article covered a homeowner's liability for injuries caused by a trampoline on his or her property. Different rules will come into play when an injury occurs elsewhere (at a "jump park" or other commercial facility, for example). For information that's tailored to your situation, and a full explanation of your legal options, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney.