'Inflatables' insurance keeps safety from bouncing away

Jeff McCarthy, manager of Harrington Insurance Agency in Cambridge, Mass., even flirted with buying a bounce house with his siblings to rent out to their large family.

"My brother saw two or three online for like $1,200 and he said we can pay it off in three or four rentals and then we own it," he says. "I probably would have gone for it until my insurance mind kicked in."

McCarthy realized a commercial insurance policy would not only be essential, but that it would also bust his budget. Unfortunately, he says, other operators choose to do without coverage.

"Most people don't have insurance," he says. "It's the firefighter who bought one of these on eBay and rents it out for cookouts, and I bet my life they don't have insurance."

If someone gets hurt on one you've rented, don't look for help from your homeowners insurance, he says. "Homeowners (insurance) obviously isn't going to cover it if a bounce company came out, set it up and it blew away with five kids on it," he says.

Wagner recommends these steps for worry-free inflatable fun:

  • Make sure your operator has a valid certificate of operation if your state regulates inflatables. You can find this by searching online for "amusement devices" on your city, county or state government site. Amusement ride inspection typically falls under the Department of Labor, Department of Agriculture or Department of Public Safety.
  • Make sure the rental company is insured, even where it's not required by statute. Be sure the policy specifically covers inflatable amusement rides and that the limits are adequate.
  • Investigate the rental company's safety record. States with jurisdiction maintain extensive records on training and accidents by certified operators.
  • Follow manufacturer safety guidelines. Do not allow adults on rides with children, as the weight difference frequently results in injuries.



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