If you become a victim of a personal injury accident and do not have disability insurance or qualify for benefits under another type of insurance policy, a home insurance policy may have liability insurance coverage for you. Insurance is meant to give some measure of protection, at least financially, where an injury occurs. A claim for damages under home insurance can be made if the accident occurred at the policyholder’s home or as a result of that person’s actions. You just need the homeowner’s basic personal information (e.g., name and address) and the home insurance needs to be in good standing (i.e., the premium payments are up-to-date). Your personal injury lawyer can locate the insurance information with some research, if needed.
The liability insurance portion of the homeowner’s insurance covers legal liability for an injury that occurred while on the insured property or limited actions of the policyholder that occurred away from the home. For example, a home that is under renovation and has no contents to be protected should still be protected in the event of an injury of a worker, homeowner, guest or even a trespasser.
Once the insurance company is notified, an adjuster may be assigned, who then may send the homeowner a reservation of rights letter, which is a notice from the company about the claim. The letter does not mean acceptance of liability to pay for damages to the injured party, but rather that the insurance company will be defending the case. The insurance company will then select a lawyer and approve the payment of legal fees and other expenses of the lawsuit. The insurance company has no obligation to obtain the policyholder’s consent or approval to defend the case and typically has the contractual right to defend or settle the case on its own.
One of the most common types of personal injuries for which homeowner insurance is used is slip and fall injuries. Each case is determined on its own merit, based on whether or not the homeowner allowed a dangerous condition to occur. The finding of liability for negligence is possible if the homeowner does not take measures to try to prevent an injury from happening, such as failing to shovel snow on the driveway, leading to slippery conditions. Or, inside the home, the homeowner could fail to have adequate lighting or the absence of a railing on the stairs to the basement. Liability is also possible as a result of leaving a pool open and accessible when away on vacation, even if no one in the home was given permission to use the pool in the homeowner’s absence. In each of these situations, there are reasonable precautions that a homeowner could have taken but failed to do so.
One of the benefits of home insurance liability coverage is that there are no age restrictions, meaning coverage is available to a person of any age who meets the criteria for compensation. Home insurance could be the only coverage for a senior, as most disability insurance plans provide coverage only until age 65.
Another advantage of the liability coverage portion of the homeowner’s insurance is that it covers situations that arise when you are not home. For example, there is coverage in a situation involving a child who gets hurt climbing your fence when getting his ball.
A further advantage of homeowner’s insurance is that it provides coverage for liability caused by the homeowner’s pet, which is not typical of other insurance policies. As such, coverage is provided for the homeowner if his or her dog wanders off the property and bites someone.
Preparing a defence by the insurance company does not provide assurance that the claim is covered. For coverage to apply, the act must be accidental and/or negligent, meaning it can be one or the other or can be both. Liability policies provide coverage for accidental acts and negligence, but not intentional acts, and there could be a question raised about whether the policyholder acted intentionally. If coverage from homeowner’s insurance does not apply for a personal injury claim because the act was deemed intentional, other potential sources of liability insurance (e.g., travel insurance or disability insurance) will not apply either. Details of the insurance policy plan will provide some information about claims that are covered.
If you are found to have contributed to your injury due to acting negligently in some way or you failed to follow treatment recommendations thereafter resulting in longer term injury or further injury, your compensation for damages may be reduced. For example, if you were not wearing prescription glasses or footwear or were eating or drinking while you slipped and fell, you may have some liability apportioned for the injuries sustained. Further, a breach of terms and conditions could be found on your part if you were intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Your financial compensation for the accident you were victim to will be reduced, but perhaps less so, where it is found that both parties (e.g., you and the homeowner) acted negligently. For example, a pedestrian in an accident involving a bicycle has some comparative negligence if he was struck when crossing the road illegally or walking along the right side of the road where no sidewalk exists, which is also illegal.
Where coverage is applicable, home insurance policy compensation for a personal injury will not be as comprehensive as a personal disability insurance policy. However, depending on the injuries suffered, some home insurance policies will pay out on multiple injuries (to a point) and some can have compensation levels in the six-figure range for a single injury. The amount of compensation will depend on the facts of the case and the long-term effects of the accident.
Hiring a lawyer who knows the relevant laws and the insurance coverage available will put you in a position to obtain the maximum financial compensation possible for the injuries sustained.
If you have a personal injury accident, your lawyer’s role is to manage the case from the beginning through to the end. He or she will contact the homeowner’s insurance for verification of the policy and submit a claim within the two-year statute of limitations period. Your lawyer will caution you and provide guidance on what to tell others and what to do until after the accident claim settles. Your lawyer will represent you legally and put forth arguments that are in your best interests. Your personal injury accident lawyer will help you to obtain the maximum settlement possible for your personal injury situation. At Howard Yegendorf & Associates in Ottawa, Ontario, we serve residents for various personal injury claims in Ottawa and the surrounding area. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.