You’re having a new pool installed in your backyard, and you can’t wait to dive into a summer of swimming fun. Of course, you may be so busy buying water wings, noodles and floats that you forgot to take care of one very important detail: your insurance. Now is the time to take a close look at your homeowner's policy to see if you have sufficient coverage for your new pool.
Your first step should be to give your insurance agent a call right away and let them know you have a new pool. If you neglect to inform them of this important fact, it could cause problems down the road if someone is injured in your pool.
Here are a few insurance facts to keep in mind as you get ready for your pool opening:
Your pool is separate from your home
Homeowner's insurance generally provides coverage for damages to your home and “other structures” on the premises. As far as your insurance company is concerned, your pool is considered a separate entity from your house—which means it is covered under the “other structures” portion of your policy, along with detached garages, sheds and gazebos.
With most homeowner's policies, the maximum amount of insurance coverage for these other structures is 10 percent the amount of coverage on your home. In other words, if your insurance policy covers $100,000 on your home, the coverage you would receive for your pool and other structures would be $10,000 combined.
If you spent wads of money on a fancy new pool, $10,000 may not be enough to cover serious damages to it. Plus, if you have a shed and a detached garage in addition to a new pool, keep in mind that this amount will have to cover damages to all three structures. You may decide that you need to purchase additional insurance.
The type of pool damages your insurance will cover varies depending on your specific policy. Be sure to read the fine print and figure out exactly what your policy covers. Most policies do not cover damage caused by freezing, thawing, pressure or weight of ice water. Therefore, if you live in a particularly cold area, be sure to properly protect and “winterize” your pool before the colder months hit.
Protect yourself against pool liability issues
Insurance can also protect you against liability issues related to your pool. Obviously, there are serious dangers associated with pools, including injuries and drowning. As a matter of fact, about 45,000 swimmers are injured and 300 people drown in backyard swimming pools every year.
Although the liability portion of your homeowner's policy will protect your assets if someone sues you, it may not be enough. Most homeowner's policies pay up to $100,000 in coverage each time a person makes a legitimate civil claim against you for an injury that occurred on your property. When you install in a pool, you are increasing the chances that someone could be seriously injured or even killed on your property—and $100,000 may not be enough such a tragedy.
Therefore, you should consider purchasing additional liability coverage after you install your new pool. First of all, find out if you can purchase higher liability coverage limits on your existing homeowner's policy. You may be able to increase your coverage from $100,000 to as much as $300,000 for a minimal premium.
However, this still may not be enough for a pool owner. You should also consider purchasing what’s known as a personal umbrella policy. This type of policy offers a higher level of liability coverage and ensures that you and your family will be protected if someone sues you for damages. Umbrella policies typically pay up to a predetermined limit, which is usually $1 million, for liability claims made against you and your family.
Call your insurance agent and discuss how you can protect yourself from liability issues relating to your pool.
Follow pool safety rules
Another way you can protect yourself from liability issues is to create a safe swimming area and make sure everyone who takes a dip follows your pool rules. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:
- Do not install a pool diving board or slide. (Many insurers will not even cover pools with these items because they are far too risky.)
- Install a secure fence around the pool.
- Never leave small children unsupervised near the pool, even for a few seconds.
- Do not allow anyone who cannot swim into your pool.
- Keep children away from pool filters. The suction from these filters can cause injuries or trap them at the bottom of the pool.
- Do not swim alone or allow others to swim alone.
- Do not allow people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to swim in the pool.
- Check the pool regularly for glass, bottle caps and other hazards.
- Keep a secure cover on the pool during the off-season.