What are the most common lawsuits against homeowners? Let’s take a closer look at some typical scenarios and how homeowners can educate and prepare themselves to help avoid risk.
1. Home Accidents
One of the common lawsuits against homeowners is accidents that occur on the property, such as a slip and fall. When it comes to property, the owner is legally responsible for maintaining a safe space. So when a guest, postal worker, contractor, or someone else steps onto your yard or into your home, you can be held liable should they get hurt.
For instance, if you spill something and fail to clean it up, dry it, or warn others of its presence, this could result in someone slipping, falling, and becoming injured on your property due to your negligence.
Guests can also slip and fall, sustaining injuries due to icy or snowy walkways. While the laws differ from state to state regarding snow and ice, some factors could lead to a lawsuit against the homeowner. Failing to clear away black ice or only partially clearing the snow, leading to a guest injuring themselves, could be potential for a lawsuit against a homeowner.
Another potential home accident can include a guest becoming injured from a deck or other structure collapsing or breaking. Homeowners are encouraged to perform regular checks and maintenance of structures on their property to avoid potential injury to themselves or their guests.
2. Dog Bites
In many states, homeowners can be held strictly liable when a dog bite occurs, while other states allow the dog “one free bite,” meaning if the dog hasn’t displayed dangerous or violent tendencies in the past, the owner may not be held liable unless he or she had prior knowledge that the dog may bite or attack someone. Homeowners can learn where their state stands on these laws so that they are prepared for such a situation to occur, no matter how confident they are in their dog’s behavior.
Certain dog breeds can be more of a liability than others. If insurance companies determine that a dog breed is dangerous, it can end up costing the owners much more and be difficult to find insurance coverage. The excluded dogs usually are large and powerful breeds that can cause serious injuries if they attack people.
As a precaution, homeowners can make sure their pets are always secured, tied up, or kept at a distance from guests to help keep visitors safe and avoid any unwanted lawsuits.
3. Social Host Liability
Another one of the common lawsuits against homeowners happens when the homeowner hosts a party or gathering where a guest becomes intoxicated and causes damages, typically involving injuring themselves or another individual, car accidents, and criminal or violent acts. Many states have social host liability laws, which allow people injured in car accidents to sue the people or businesses who served liquor to the intoxicated driver.
While some homeowners insurance policies can include some liquor liability coverage, it’s usually limited to about $100,000, which might not be enough to cover costs. Homeowners can take steps to protect themselves by learning about social host liability laws before throwing a party on their property.
4. Fallen Trees
If you have a tree on your property that falls and damages your neighbor’s house or car, you can be held liable for the damages. Hazardous trees that reside on your property are a homeowner’s responsibility to trim, maintain, or remove entirely. These incidents can be costly, especially if the car is totaled. Many of these lawsuits can result in the homeowners paying the full value of the car. As a homeowner, it’s important to be informed about your local laws and where you could be liable.
What Homeowners Do to Protect Against Common Lawsuits
When buying a home, you’re often so overwhelmed by the onset of responsibility, from finances to maintenance, that you rarely consider what lawsuits are commonly filed against homeowners. Here are some of the popular ways homeowners can prepare for the increase in legal risk that comes from owning their own property.
One important method to homeowners use to protect themselves against lawsuits is liability insurance. Liability insurance provides financial protection for you and your family by covering claims of bodily injury and property damage sustained by others for which you or covered residents of your household are legally responsible.
Many insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 in personal liability coverage. This means the insurance company can pay up to that amount in total to injured persons per occurrence. You can also get a higher limit if you feel you need more protection.
What Does Liability Insurance Cover?
- Property damage
- Bodily injury
- Bodily injury or property damage resulting from negligent acts or omissions
- Bodily injury or property damage caused by your pets
- Personal injuries such as libel, slander, and malicious prosecution
- Defense costs for civil lawsuits against you
- Medical bills that result from a visitor’s injury at your home
- Legal expenses resulting from lawsuits against homeowners to recover damages that are potentially covered by the policy
What is Not Covered by Liability Insurance?
- Liability that results from a car accident
- Bodily injury or property damage caused intentionally by you or a family member
- Injuries or damages sustained by you or other covered residents in your home
- Bodily injury or property damage arising out of any business conducted by you or arising out of your professional activities. Claims that arise while you are engaging in any business-related activities should be covered by a business insurance policy.
How Much Liability Insurance Do I need?
Consult your insurance provider or a lawyer to determine the level of coverage necessary for your needs. Expanding your insurance coverage is usually not that much more expensive and can reduce out-of-pocket expenses for the policyholder. So while the minimum coverage most insurance policies offer is about $100,000, many will go up to $1,000,000, providing you with more protection and greater peace of mind.
While having liability insurance is crucial, there are some cases where costs from injuries or damages go above the policy’s limits. That’s when many homeowners consider umbrella insurance to protect against lawsuits. Umbrella insurance is a standalone policy that adds extra coverage to your existing liability insurance.
Accidents can happen at any time. That’s why it’s important as a homeowner to always be educated on the potential risks and take measures to protect yourself. There are many ways homeowners can protect themselves against different types of lawsuits. Take the necessary actions before an incident occurs to be in the best position to defend yourself and protect your assets.
1. Dog Bite Laws by State
2. Social host liability
3. My Tree Fell on Neighbor’s Garage: Who Pays?
4. Umbrella Insurance – How it Works & What it Covers