Many swimming pool accidents can be preventable with proper safety precautions and equipment. Learn how to set safety rules for your family, what accessories to purchase and what you'll need to protect yourself as a homeowner if someone is injured.
A Guide to Pool Safety, Liability & Insurance
Having a place to swim on your property is likely to add fun and value to your life, but it can also present unforeseen risks, such as drowning. An accident or injury can result in an expensive lawsuit.
Before you dive into building a pool, it’s important to understand safety precautions, how much home insurance coverage you'll need and ways you can protect yourself from any increased liability as a homeowner.
Pool Safety Precautions to Consider
Pools present a number of risks regardless of whether you’re swimming, hanging out on the steps, or not getting in the water at all. In addition to personal precautions you should take, every city and town has its own laws regarding pool safety standards and building codes. Be sure to check them before buying a house with a pool or building your own.
You’ll need to work with your home insurance company to make sure you’re meeting coverage guidelines. Whether required by law or insurance, the following precautions should be taken by all homeowners before and after building a pool:
- Installing proper fencing and safety perimeters
- Purchasing safety alarms for your home and pool
- Keeping your pool chemically balanced
- Having an automatic and lockable cover
- Understanding your guests’ swimming abilities before allowing them in your pool
- Having an emergency rescue plan
- Keeping safety equipment easily accessible
Setting Safety Rules
Whether you are swimming with immediate family members, friends or guests, establishing and implementing rules can help prevent accidents and injuries. The following can help you start creating a list of safety measures:
Set open and close times
Limit when the pool can be used to daylight hours and/or whenever someone is home.
Set diving rules
People love to dive headfirst into a pool, but this is only safe if the pool is deep enough.
Limit running around the pool
Pool decks and surfaces immediately surrounding a pool are some of the most dangerous areas. Prohibit any running, skipping or playing chase near the pool.
Attend to children
Aside from knowing the swimming capabilities of anyone who swims in your pool, never allow children to swim unattended.
Don’t use glass
Broken glass can result in a severe injury. Avoid using glass to prevent any accidents.
Don’t swim alone
Anyone who swims should do so with another person present or nearby.
Properly display your rules
Print out a sign of your pool safety rules and hang it in an easily viewable place near your pool.
In the event of a pool accident, get the victim to the hospital immediately. This can reduce the risk of severe damage and life-threatening risks resulting from prolonged submersion or injury.
Type of Safety Equipment to Purchase
A variety of pool safety equipment can be purchased to protect your family and guests, especially children. Follow these steps to have the proper material on hand.
Get a protective cover
Average Cost: $500–$5,000
The best pool covers are automatic and come with a key that should be kept out of the reach of children.
Monitor all entryways
Average Cost: $100–$300
Self-closing and self-latching gates are ideal for all entryways into pool areas.
Fence in your pool
Average Cost: $1,500–$10,000
Even if your yard has a fence, it’s ideal to add a fence around the perimeter of your pool.
Purchase a pool alarm
Average Cost: $60–$150
Pool alarms can protect you by going off if water in the pool is off balance.
Have rescue gear readily available
Average Cost: $50–$500
Keep life vests, ropes, a pole and a kickboard within easy reach.
Provide swimming lessons
Average Cost: $20–$60 per lesson
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that all kids over the age of four know how to swim.
Display safety signage
Average Cost: $50
In a highly visible area, create signs that include pool safety rules.
Common Safety Concerns for Pool Owners
As a pool owner, you will want to ensure that anyone who swims in your pool is having an enjoyable and safe time. If you’ve never owned a pool, however, knowing how to keep your pool safe can feel overwhelming. Here are the most common safety questions.
Home Insurance and Pool Accidents
Insurance companies consider pools an “attractive nuance” and a liability. Since you are responsible for anyone who swims in your pool whether they have permission to be there or not, adding a pool will impact your home insurance rates.
The good news is that your home insurance will typically provide coverage for your pool in several ways.
First, it will help pay to repair or replace any damage that is done to the pool as a result of covered perils such as fire, wind, storms, theft, vandalism or falling objects. In addition, your included liability coverage will pay for third-party injuries or property damage that may happen at your pool.
Most Common Pool Injuries That Are Covered
The most common pool injuries are typically covered under your home insurance policy. Those include:
- Slip and falls
- Broken bones
- Cuts and bruises
Any injuries that occur as a result of negligence or poor pool maintenance will not be covered. Your home insurance will also only cover guest injuries. If an immediate family member is injured, you’ll need to file a claim with your health insurance.
Under most state laws, property owners are found liable for child-related pool incidents under the following conditions:
- If it’s determined that a pool inherently puts the interests of children at risk
- If a pool is determined to be dangerous
- If it’s determined that you should have known a pool was dangerous
- If you did not take proper precautions to make a pool safe
To receive proper coverage, you’ll most likely need to increase your liability limits. Many insurance experts recommend increasing your limits to $500,000, which could cost an additional $50 to $75 annually, on average. Every insurance company is different, so shopping for the best insurance companies for homes with a pool can help save you money.
In-ground pools are often detached from a home and therefore considered an “other structure” from your house. This type of insurance is referred to as Coverage B, and the policy typically covers 10% of your dwelling coverage. If you have $200,000 in dwelling coverage, your pool would be covered for about $20,000. Note that to properly cover your pool you may need to increase the amount of “other structure” coverage you have on your home insurance policy.
Above-ground pools are considered part of your personal property coverage through your home insurance policy. This type of coverage is known as Coverage C and has a percentage of coverage for dwellings. Typically, this is between 50–75% of the insurance on your structure. If you have $200,000 of dwelling coverage, then your pool may have upwards of $100,000 in protection.
Expert Advice on Potential Risks
MoneyGeek spoke with a couple of experts on how pool owners can prepare for the potential risks that come with installing a pool.
- What should a homeowner consider before installing a pool?
- What is one thing that potential pool owners often don't think about when it comes to owning a pool?
Director of Aquatics Centennial Initiative, American Red Cross
President and CEO, Pool and Hot Tub Alliance
Resources for Safety and Maintenance
A variety of resources can help pool owners understand safety, maintenance, insurance and costs. The following sites are a good place to start:
- The Pool Safety Resource: This resource provides a comprehensive set of resources for pool owners and parents on swimming lessons, CPR, pool security, barriers, alarm systems and more.
- The American Red Cross: The American Red Cross offers an online course on water safety for parents and caregivers which explains how to minimize the risks of drowning for young children. The Red Cross can also help you find CPR certification locations in your city or state and show you where to find swimming lessons in your city and county.
- Pool Safely: This site is part of a federally backed educational campaign from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission which provides resources to reduce childhood drownings, submersions, injuries and entrapments.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC offers information for swimmers, pool owners and organizations to provide healthy and safe swimming experiences.
- Safe Kids Worldwide: Safe Kids Worldwide offers articles, videos, checklists and statistics on pool safety and maintenance that can help show you how to keep children safe.
- Pool and Hot Tub Alliance: The Alliance provides education, advocacy and research on the residential pool and hot tub industry. The site includes educational resources, certifications, safety code information and relevant events.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: In this "Prevention of Drowning" report, the American Academy of Pediatrics shares strategies that can be effective in preventing drowning.
About the Author
- American Red Cross. "Drowning Prevention & Facts." Accessed July 19, 2021.
- American Red Cross. "Home Swimming Pool & Hot Tub Safety." Accessed July 8, 2021.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Drowning Prevention." Accessed July 19, 2021.
- Healthy Children. "Pool Dangers and Drowning Prevention―When It’s Not Swimming Time." Accessed July 3, 2021.
- Loop Loc. "Removing and Storing your Safety Cover." Accessed July 2, 2021.
- National Drowning Prevention Alliance. "Swimming Lessons as a Layer of Protection to Prevent Drownings." Accessed July 19, 2021.
- South Florida Injury Law Firm. "23 May 5 Common Causes of Swimming Pool Accidents." Accessed July 2, 2021.
- Stanford Children’s Health. "Water Safety—Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates." Accessed July 19, 2021.