Protect Yourself from Personal Injury Claims at Home
Home is where the heart is….but it’s also where many injuries happen. If someone is injured on your property, they may be able to bring a claim against you. This purpose of this article is to get you thinking about some of the common ways people are injured in residential settings so you can decide whether or not you need to take corrective action and avoid having to deal with a personal-injury lawyer such as myself.
Generally homeowners insurance will cover $100,000 or $300,000 in personal-injury liability. However, exceptions do exist. I suggest you check your policy to see if it specifically excludes personal-injury claims or, if applicable, dog-bite claims.
The Most Common Types of Injury Claims Brought Against Homeowners
- Slip/Trip and Fall (foreign substances on staircases, lack of handrails, uneven floors, rugs without grip underneath, wet -or recently waxed- floors, defective decking, broken driveway pavers)
- Dog Bites
- Pool/Drowning Injuries (you must have a fence that meets code requirements around your pool)
First – it’s important to note that just because someone is injured on your property, does not mean that you are automatically liable. Sometimes people are injured due to their own clumsiness or nobody is to blame.
Generally, homeowners are liable for injuries sustained on their property if caused by a defect that the homeowner knew (or should have known) about and failed to correct. The exception to this is dog-bite cases. If your dog bites someone – you are automatically liable for the resulting injury, unless the dog was provoked, which you would have to prove. It doesn’t matter if sweet fluffy has never growled in her life, let alone previously bitten someone – there is no free bite rule in Florida (which does exist in some states, such as Texas). Also, it’s important to know that almost all homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude covering injuries resulting from certain notoriously-violent dog breeds (such as Rottweilers, Pitt Bulls, and certain terriers).
Also, if you plan on entertaining, be careful how much liquor you serve. If minors get a hold of your alcohol or someone too drunk gets behind the wheel, you could be held responsible for the resulting injuries. Take away keys or call a taxi service.
You are held to a reasonableness standard. Most of this is common sense: If you walk over your driveway and notice loose pavers – get them fixed sooner rather than later. If your freezer starts leaking water, get it repaired (or be sure to warn your guests). If a wooden step on your staircase has started to warp creating an uneven surface, replace the step. If your dog is overprotective, put it in another room while people are over.
If you are buying a new home, this is also why you want to hire a reputable home inspector. You want to know what problems lurk in the home (hopefully you can then get the seller to make the repairs) rather than be surprised after you move in.
If someone is injured in your home, you will report it to your homeowner’s insurance carrier – and they will do their best to defend your interests if obligated to do so under the insurance policy. But, it’s certainly better to be proactive and avoid having to deal with an injured guest in the first place. As Ben Franklin once said: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.