Homeowners Insurance and Liability

Imagine this: Your remove a board on your deck because it is damaged. You plan to replace it right then, but you are interrupted before you finish the job. You alert your family to the danger, but you…

Imagine this: Your remove a board on your deck because it is damaged. You plan to replace it right then, but you are interrupted before you finish the job. You alert your family to the danger, but you do not mark the spot. You do not expect that an acquaintance will stop by that evening and choose to seek entry through the side door, rather than the entry door. Not seeing the missing board, the visitor puts his foot through the opening and falls, wrenching his knee. You rush him to a nearby hospital, apologizing profusely but confident that whatever medical bills arise from the incident will be paid by your homeowners insurance. Hold on, Mr. Fix-It. You did it, but your home insurance might not help.The term for insurance that protects you from lawsuits arising from an injury on your property is “premises liability” coverage. Normally, a lawsuit is not successful if you maintain a safe environment on your property. If, however, a person is injured due to negligence on your part, then a lawsuit may succeed. In the case of the missing board, your visitor sustained and injury because a normal walking surface was unsafe, yet it was not marked as dangerous with caution tape, easel signs, or any other safety equipment. The visitor has a strong claim of negligence. He might even claim the injury was the result of intentional action on your part.Normally, homeowner insurance offers protection against damages arising from injuries that occur due to negligence, but not intentional acts. For example, if you dig a pit to catch or injure trespassers or burglars, damages arising from your intentional actions would be excluded from coverage by most home owner insurance policies. Of course, in the missing board scenario, you fully intended to replace the board. You were not booby-trapping your home. That will not prevent the injured party from alleging that your actions were intentional as well as negligent. The difference between negligence and intentional action is vital. Your insurance company is contractually bound to defend you against all liability lawsuits, but it does not have to pay damages arising from claims excluded by the policy. Typically, claims arising from intentional actions are excluded from coverage. Should the injured party claim intentional action, your insurance company most likely would notify you that it is paying for your defense against the lawsuit, but it does not agree to pay for losses arising from intentional actions or any other losses excluded from your homeowners insurance policy. If the injured party is able to convince the court that your actions were intentional, not merely negligent, then your insurance company would not be liable for those damages. To make sure you are covered against premises liability claims, be sure to read your homeowners insurance policy carefully. If you questions about what liability is covered and what is excluded, be sure to contact your insurance agent. Strange things happen in this world. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t need insurance.

156 thoughts on “Homeowners Insurance and Liability”

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