Hiring a bouncy castle for your child’s birthday party is seen by most people as a very special treat. As specialists in personal injury law, we, on the other hand, see an accident waiting to happen!
Fun lot, aren’t we!
We understand though, that there’s a middle road. This article should help you begin to understand your main responsibilities when it comes to hiring and supervising a bouncy castle for your child’s party. Understanding and acting on your responsibilities will significantly lessen the chances of an accident. It will also help to make sure that you are not to blame if an accident happens.
Hiring a bouncy castle
Hire a bouncy castle from reputable operator. Do your research. Look at reviews. If you hire a bouncy castle from an obviously disreputable source (for example, because it’s cheap), then it’s possible that a court might decide that you are partly to blame for an accident, even if it is the result of the operator’s negligence.
Generally, when you hire a bouncy castle for your child’s party, reputable operators will have a list of terms and conditions that you have to agree to (whether verbally or in writing). There are various different ways that operators communicate these “rules” to you. Sometimes, they are in the form of Frequently Asked Questions on an operator’s website.
When hiring a bouncy castle spend some time making sure you are familiar with all the “rules”, terms and conditions. Sometimes, these terms and conditions will include how the bouncy castle must be supervised. If you are unable or unwilling to comply with the terms and conditions, then do not hire the bouncy castle. These terms and conditions are designed by operators (and their solicitors) to minimise the risk of accidents and protect operators from being successfully sued if an accident does happen. Take these very seriously!
If you cannot find an operator’s terms and conditions, then ask the operator. If an operator does not have them, then do not hire a bouncy castle from them.
Before the party
Make sure that every parent knows that there will be a bouncy castle at the party and the supervision arrangements that you have made. This will give parents an opportunity to make the decision as to whether they want the child to go on the bouncy castle or to discuss any concerns that they may have.
This notification to parents is not only polite but also serves a useful purpose. If a parents acts particularly concerned, sends you many queries or reacts in a way that concerns you, this can be a red flag. You may have to arrange extra supervision to ensure that particularly concerned parents don’t turn into litigious parents or even ask that the parent joins the party to provide extra supervision for their own child.
Setting up the bouncy castle
Don’t attempt to set up a bouncy castle yourself. Bouncy castles need to be set up by experienced operators. Accidents that happen as a result of an incorrectly set up or inadequately maintained bouncy castle will generally be an operator’s fault. For example, it’s an operator’s responsibility to:
- pump up the bouncy castle to the correct pressure;
- provide safety mats;
- put protective coverings on guy ropes or anchorages;
- provide safe electrical equipment; and
- take weather conditions into account.
Despite this, you still need to be vigilant. We recommend that you watch an operator carefully when they set up the bouncy castle and check it over once it’s set up. An accident that happens as a result of something that is obviously wrong with the set up (for example, smoking electrical equipment), can still be considered partially your fault, even if it was the operator who set it up.
Many bouncy castle accidents happen as a result of improper supervision. The responsibility for this is usually yours.
To minimise the risk of accidents during the bouncy castle’s use, you will need to have at least one, confident and authoritative adult to supervise the use of the bouncy castle for the entire party. Make sure that this supervisor knows all the rules of the bouncy castle use and our suggested supervision strategies set out below. You must be confident in the person you nominate to supervise the bouncy castle. If your chosen supervisor does not supervise the bouncy castle in accordance with your instructions and with common sense, you may be at risk of being successfully sued should an accident happen.
The operator will give you guidance on how many children can safely use the bouncy castle at any one time. Make sure that you stick to this rigidly. If at any point, you and/or the supervisor think that the recommended number looks like too many children, then err on the side of caution.
If you have invited children of vastly different ages, then make sure that there are separate bouncy castle times for the different age groups. Be strict about making children take off jewellery, watches or sharp accessories before going on the bouncy castle. Of course, if the weather changes during the party and it becomes windy or it begins to rain, then stop the use of the bouncy castle.
We recommend that you either obtain public liability insurance, or that you contact your home insurers to check the extent of your existing insurance.
Following our suggestions won’t guarantee an accident-free party. Even the most carefully and conscientiously planned and supervised party can go awry. If something does go wrong, then seek legal advice on how to protect yourself as soon as possible. We provide free consultations. Our experienced, qualified solicitors will give you a careful and honest view of your situation and guide you on the next steps.