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Can you be held responsible for an injury on your property?

If you have children, you probably baby-proofed your home and continue to make adjustments to your house and property as your children grow to keep them safe. What if there is something on your property that could injure a neighborhood child? There is an aspect of law called attractive nuisance doctrine, which may hold you and other Schenectady residents liable for failing to take measures to prevent a known risk from injuring a child who comes onto private property.

The Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute defines an attractive nuisance as something that draws a child in and threatens his or her safety, if you have not ensured the item is inaccessible. Backyard swimming pools are common examples of an attractive nuisance. However, anything can be considered an attractive nuisance if it is likely to catch the interest of a child in the area – as long as you can reasonably expect this might happen. For example, you might have a riding lawn mower. If you keep the mower and keys within easy access of neighborhood children, you could be held responsible for injuries that occur. Measures that you take to protect children might include locking up the keys, parking the mower in a shed or area away from view and having a tall, locked fence around your property.

The keys to attractive nuisance doctrine are reasonably expecting that something on your property might attract children, understanding that children are unable to fully comprehend the risks posed to them and failing to take measures to prevent access to the danger. If you have fenced your yard, locked up the item and otherwise reasonably done what you can to keep children safe, you may have made significant progress in protecting neighborhood children from harm and yourself from legal action. However, this information should not replace the advice of a lawyer.

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