Summertime liability issues

The following information was discussed by Attorney Whitney Hughes on the June 19, 2007 edition of Legal Briefs on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live Show.

With summer coming into full swing, we may be getting involved in activities that are a little out of the ordinary. These are some helpful tips for situations you may find yourself in this time of year and certain pitfalls you may want to watch out for.

Taking Advantage of Our Three Rivers

Boating While Intoxicated

  • BAC of .10 is considered over the legal limit
  • Fines of up to $7500
  • Up to 2 years in jail
  • Loss of boating privileges for up to one year

Boating Safety Education Certificate

  • Required if you are operating a personal watercraft (jet ski)
  • Required if you are operating a motorboat more than 25 horsepower and you were born in or after 1982

Personal Floatation Device (life vest)

  • required for all children 12 years and younger

Water Skiing

  • Must have someone other than the driver in the boat to observe the person skiing

Swimming Pools

This is always a premises liability issue - your responsibility toward others on your property depends on why they are there

  • Licensee: This is a person who is specifically invited onto your property for a non-commercial purpose (guest at a party). You are responsible if you know or should have known about a dangerous condition and couldn't expect the person to recognize the danger for him/herself, and you don't take reasonable care to rectify the danger or guard against the risk.
  • Trespasser: This is someone who is on your property without your permission. You have limited duties to him/her, but you must exercise care if you know that there is a danger and that he/she is going to be on your property (i.e., children may come into your yard uninvited and try to use the pool).

Again, use a common sense approach

  • Have a fence around the pool.
  • Have a gate lock and an alarm which will alert you if someone enters the area.
  • No one swims alone.
  • CPR training

Vacationing With Children (yours or someone else's)

Make sure the person caring for the children has a valid temporary power of attorney to be able to get the child medical treatment in the event of an emergency.


What is permissible:

  • sparklers
  • toy pistols
  • paper caps which contain .25 grains or less of explosive compounds

What is not permissible:

  • firecrackers
  • skyrockets or roman candles

Amusement Parks

  • Regulated by the PA Dept. of Agriculture
  • Required to be registered with the State and carry liability insurance.
  • Specific regulations for construction and maintenance.
  • Parks have a specific legal duty to warn their patrons about dangerous conditions. Pay attention to height and weight
  • The park can remove you if they feel you are being disruptive. They are privately run businesses and are allowed to remove someone from their property.

State Parks

  • Have specific regulations covering everything from parking and starting fires to boating, camping, and swimming. These are always posted in the park. These are always posted in the park
  • Pay attention to these signs. Violation of any one of these regulations is a criminal violation, and you will be charged with a summary offense. Usually you are not entitled to a free attorney for summary offenses, so this may end up costing you a lot more than you bargained for.

Renting A Car

When renting a car for an out-of-town trip, many people don't know whether or not they should purchase the extra insurance offered by the rental company. Some helpful tips:

  • Many things depend on the coverage you have with your own auto insurance company and your homeowners or rental insurance.
  • Usually the auto insurance coverage you have will extend to the car you rent, provided you are using it for pleasure and not a work-related trip.
  • If you just have liability coverage (in an effort to save money)and do not have collision or comprehensive coverage, you may want to purchase the rental company's additional collision coverage, because you would not be covered in that event.
  • The rental company may offer personal accident coverage which will cover you in the event that you or a passenger are injured. If you have that coverage through your own auto insurance or you have good health insurance coverage, you may be able to forego it.
  • Personal belongings are usually covered by your homeowners or rental insurance policy, but check to see if you have a floater policy which covers your property no matter where you are.
  • Always check your policy and speak with your insurance agent just to make sure.

If you need to speak to an attorney, call our Lawyer Referral Service at 412-261-5555.