Every homeowner has insurance as a safety net for disasters like home burglary, bad storms, or devastating fires. However, you also have liability insurance as a protection against personal injury lawsuits. You might not even think about how much coverage you have and how far it will go, simply because it’s not as common to face lawsuits that threaten your residential property and personal wealth.
Unfortunately, some homeowners run into trouble after someone files a claim against them. They discover their liability coverage is not nearly enough to cover the damages. So, how can you know if your liability coverage is adequate for the level of risk associated with your home and lifestyle? Here’s what you need to know.
Your Insurance Covers You and Your Family Personally
You have car insurance to protect you in case you get into a car accident while you are out of the house. But what happens when you injure another person when you’re not at home? Your liability insurance covers you then.
Some homeowners underestimate the value of this type of protection. You might think that you don’t really get into any sort of trouble with anyone, but accidents can occur as you follow your regular routine. For example:
- Your teenager might set off a firework in a public parking lot, accidentally burning another teen. The parents of that teen could sue for injury. Your liability insurance would cover that lawsuit.
- You might enjoy going to the gym every day. You might accidentally run into someone on the track as you’re looking down at your phone. The other person is seriously hurt. Your liability coverage will help you with the cost of settlement.
- You might mow your lawn. Your mower blade catches a rock and throws through the fence, hitting your neighbor’s expensive car or breaking a window. Your liability coverage pays for that type of damage. It’s even more important if the rock hits a person.
So, how do you know you need increased coverage? Consider the risks of your lifestyle. Do you or any of your family members engage in community sports? Are you often in a position where some aspect of your routine could accidentally lead to the injury of another person? If you are not sure, you can speak to a lawyer about whether or not they think your coverage is adequate.
Your Insurance Covers Residential Risks
The most common residential personal injury lawsuits stem from two high-risk additions: pools and pets.
Pets, especially dogs and horses, are essentially “wildcards” when it comes to predicting and preventing accidents. Even well-trained animals can snap or bite. Increased coverage is essential, especially in states with strict liability dog bite laws that place all the liability for bites and attacks on the owner.
If you have a neighborhood with plenty of children, increased coverage is even more important, because the medical costs and liabilities of treating a child injured by an animal can be much greater. Children are not as good at assessing the risks associated with animals, which is another reason why a high population of children should be a factor in deciding to increase your coverage.
Unfortunately, any pool on your property drastically increases your personal liability for injuries to others. Here are just a few of the risks that pools bring:
- Roughhousing. Older kids and young adults may roughhouse in the pool and become injured as a result. You may not be totally at fault for the injury, but you’ll still need resources to fight or settle a claim that could come.
- Maintenance responsibilities. If someone swims in your pool and is injured because you have not been maintaining the pool properly, you will be held negligent and at fault for the injury.
- Attractive nuisance doctrine. Pools are the classic example of an attractive nuisance—something dangerous that is alluring for children. Children might wander into your yard or into the pool, suffering harm or even death. You are responsible for preventing children from accidentally encountering your pool.
- Fencing failures. Many cities requires that pools are fenced. If your pool is not fenced and someone is injured by having access when they would have been prevented by a secure fence, the fault again lies with you as the homeowner.
If you have questions about your pool’s effect on your liability, ask a lawyer.
Smaller property risks that you might consider include tree houses, climbing trees, decks, farm equipment, and farm animals.
Your insurance company can provide quotes about how much coverage you should have for property risks, but you should also consult a personal injury attorney to get a reasonable estimate on how common these lawsuits are and how expensive they end up being.
Your liability coverage is not simply an accessory to disaster, flood, fire, or theft insurance. For more information on assessing the liability risk of your property and personal injury laws for your state, contact us at Otorowski Morrow and Golden, PLLC.