Understanding Personal Liability Insurance

man with cane has fallen on steps

Most individuals understand that their homeowners insurance covers damages related to the home, personal property, and certain surrounding structures. They may be less aware that they are also covered, to an extent, in cases of personal liability. 

What is Personal Liability Insurance?

Personal liability insurance protects an individual in the event that someone is injured on his or her property. It also provides coverage when someone living within the home damages another person’s property.

Generally speaking, most personal liability claims happen as a result of negligence. If someone slipped on your sidewalk as a result of an un-shoveled snow, for example, you may be held responsible. Or, if you have neglected to install or maintain a railing and someone falls down your stairs, you can be liable for injuries sustained. 

Other common examples of personal liability claims include:

Dog bites
Dog bites accounted for approximately $880 million in personal injury damages in 2021, and the number of claims has risen over 2 percent since 2020. Because of this, certain policies require higher fees for breeds deemed more likely to bite, while other insurance carriers may refuse coverage altogether. 

Falling trees
Mature trees, especially, can pose a risk in high winds or in heavy snow. If you have older trees, it is your responsibility as the homeowner to keep them in good condition. If you fail to do so and a tree falls and lands on your neighbors car, roof, or other property, you can be held liable.

Related: How to File a Roof Damage Claim

Intoxicated Guests
Unfortunately, if someone becomes drunk in your home and causes intentional or accidental harm to another, you will be held responsible for their behavior. Your personal liability insurance will help cover any medical bills or damaged property that resulted from a belligerent guest. 

Domestic Employee Accidents
Gardeners, plumbers, housekeepers, and other household employees have the right to file suit for injuries sustained while working in or on your property. This applies to independent contractors only, however, as other types of employees will be awarded workman’s compensation when hurt on the job.

Independent contractors, or 1099 employees, are not required to have workman’s comp insurance and can therefore sue the homeowner if they are injured while at work.

What Does Personal Liability Insurance Cover?

Personal liability insurance exists to protect homeowners financially in the event of an accident. Within the limits of a policy, individuals can avoid having to pay out of pocket in certain situations, including the following:

Medical Bills

Homeowners insurance will cover part or all of the cost of medical bills incurred by someone who had an accident on your property. Even if the victim has his or her own health insurance, you will still be expected to pay for medical costs if the injury is determined to be your fault. 

Emotional Distress

Certain injuries can be traumatic, resulting in pain and suffering for the victim. If a child was badly bitten by a dog, for example, he or she may endure a lifelong fear of dogs for which the family should be compensated. Your personal liability insurance can help cover these costs.

Legal Costs

In the event you need legal representation, your personal liability insurance may also help cover the cost of your attorney fees.

Death Benefits

Should someone die as a result of an accident on your property, the victim’s family may claim certain benefits, such as funeral costs and medical bills. 

What Does Personal Liability Insurance Not Cover?

There are two general scenarios where persona liability insurance does not apply:

1. The injury or property damage was deliberate

2. The accident involved someone who actually lives in or on the property

In other words, if you slip in your own kitchen and are hurt, your personal liability insurance will not cover this. In this situation, you would rely on your private or government health insurance to pay for medical bills.

Likewise, if someone was intentionally pushed down a set of stairs in your house, personal liability will not cover any associated costs. 

When Should You Hire an Attorney for Personal Liability?

If you are being sued for an accident that occurred on your property, you will want to hire an experienced attorney. While your personal liability insurance may cover certain costs associated with the accident, you will want a lawyer who can help you in the event that you are held liable for other damages beyond the limits of your policy. 

David Roth has experience advocating for both policyholders and victims in personal liability cases. If you need assistance filing your personal liability claim, or if you are a homeowner needing advice, contact our office or go online to schedule a free consultation.