Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP – Personal Injury Law – Michael J. Henry
Michael J. Henry

Summer at the cottage is full of exciting and fun activities. Swimming, boating, roasting marshmallows by the campfire and fishing, to name a few of these activities, all provide lasting memories for friends and family. That being said, precautions must be taken to ensure your family and visitors are safe while on your property.

All watercraft should be insured. A standard policy which applies to cottages does not cover watercraft. As well, there are various distinctions between the types of watercraft to be insured and to what extent. Often this is expressed in terms of jet ski type craft or boat, and by engine horsepower. If you have any of these watercraft at your cottage, contact your insurance broker and advise them of the exact details of the watercraft so as to obtain the appropriate insurance coverage. Always wear lifejackets when using watercrafts.

Father and son fishing in front of their wooden cottage on water, shallow doff

Swimming is not generally thought of a dangerous pastime, but drowning is a serious risk. Many injuries also occur from diving into the lake. Ensure that all of your family and visitors are well aware of the water depths around the cottage. Be mindful that if your cottage is on water that has a tide or dams, that the water can and does, without notice, lower or raise which creates serious risk of injury. Deeper water creates greater risk of drowning and shallow water when diving. Signs on your property and deck stating NO DIVING in such areas might prevent injury.

Campfires are lots of fun and a tradition at cottages. Be sure the fire pit is properly constructed. You can go online for tips on how to construct one. The ground underneath must not be flammable. It should be a pit of sand and the area ringed with rocks. The fire should be contained in the pit and you need to be cautious not to allow the flames to get too high. The pit should not be in an area around overhanging trees. Never pour flammable liquid on a fire, even to start it. Never have a fire when the ground is too dry and in particular when there are fire alerts in effect. Of course you should sit well back from the fire so that you do not singe yourself and there should not be any horseplay in the area.

Many activities go on at cottages such as hunting, fishing, fireworks and hiking. Guests are often unfamiliar with the activity and equipment as they are “city dwellers”. Precautions and supervision need to be taken, as well as warnings when undertaking these activities with inexperienced users. Guns should only be used with experienced adult supervision. Never point a gun at a person. When fishing, be mindful of hooks when casting. Directions should always be read and followed when using fireworks. When hiking be wary of the presence of bears and always stay on trails. One must always pay close attention to what they are doing and be aware of the location of other participants when doing activities.

In my legal practice I have seen all manner of injuries that can occur. Some predictable and other not so obvious. Going to the cottage can be very fun, but it is full of potential dangers. You can avoid injury to yourself, family and friends, by being extra cautious, and providing instruction and supervision. You can avoid liability by having appropriate insurance on your cottage to cover the types of activities that go on at your cottage. Have a safe and good memory filled summer.

Click here to read Cottage Safety: Part 1.

If you have any problems or questions, feel free to contact Michael Henry at 416-361-0889 or

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