What is Washington’s Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?

Under premises liability laws, property owners are generally not liable if a person trespasses on their land and then gets injured. However, Washington law carves out an exception to trespassing children. The law, known as the attractive nuisance doctrine, says that a child trespasser can sue a property owner for injuries caused by an unsafe object on the land, as long as the object “attracted” the child or lured them onto the property.

Attractive Nuisance Laws

Washington has an area of the law known as premises liability. Premises liability laws apply when a person is injured on another person’s property. For example, when a mail carrier enters someone’s yard and gets bitten by the homeowner’s dog. In most cases, Washington’s premises liability laws say that a property owner is responsible for another person’s injuries only if the owner fails to:

  • Keep the property reasonably safe, or
  • Fails to correct a known hazardous condition.

But the law in this area says that a property owner is not responsible for a trespasser’s injuries. Consider, for example, the scenario where it is dark at night and a person trespasses onto the land of a residential home. Assume there is a large hole on the property due to some landscaping work that the homeowner is completing. If the trespasser twists and breaks his/her ankle due to the hole, the homeowner is not responsible. The trespasser simply did not have permission to be on the property.

An exception applies, though, with regards to trespassing children. The exception says property owners are responsible to a child trespasser when:

  1. Some unsafe object on a person’s property (e.g., an uncovered pool with no fence around it) lures a child to trespass on the land, and
  2. The child is injured because of the unsafe object.

In these cases, the property owner must compensate the child for his/her injuries. This includes payment for:

  • Medical expenses,
  • Property damage, and
  • Pain and Suffering.

Common Objects that Attract or Lure Children

The most common objects that allure children in attractive nuisance cases include:

  • Swimming pools,
  • Trampolines,
  • Ponds,
  • Machinery with keys in the ignition,
  • Uncovered wells, and
  • Unsecured log forts.

Difficulties with Child Injury Claims

As with injured adults, injured children share in the right to receive fair compensation for their injuries. However, there are some differences between adult claims and child claims that may translate into a few difficulties with bringing a child-related case. For example, underage children cannot legally settle their own insurance claim or file a lawsuit. A qualified adult can represent a child to resolve injury claims as their “Next Friend.” Some courts require court approval before a parent can become a “Next Friend.”

Difficulties with child claims means that parents should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

Contact Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC

If your child has suffered an injury due to a luring object on someone’s land, please know that Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC is here to help. Our attorneys provide free consultations to all our potential clients. Further, the attorneys at our law firm have over 120 years of combined experience representing injured parties and helping them file lawsuits to get the compensation they deserve. Do yourself a favor and contact them now for the quality legal assistance you deserve.