An Injury at Your Residence – Understanding Your Homeowner’s Policy
Have you ever needed to make a claim on your homeowner’s policy? Typical, more common things that occur include leaks and water damage, flooding, mold, and maybe fire/smoke damage. But have you ever thought about what happens if someone is injured on your property? If you own a business property (commercial real estate), you could be the subject of a premises liability lawsuit.
But in the case of your own home, it’s wise to know what happens when a visitor is injured there. Let’s say Aunt Margaret visits and trips on your stairs to the porch. You may or may not have a handrail. What is your responsibility? Now, Aunt Margaret may love you dearly and not sue you or make a claim. But what about the UPS delivery man whose foot gets caught on a loose board in your steps, causing him to fall. Hmmmm…. Now what?!
The first thing to do when an injury occurs on your property is to examine and record the severity of the injuries. Do they need an ambulance or a ride to a walk-in clinic, or emergency room? Or do they just need to see their own doctor the next day? It’s important to take pictures and notes right when the incident happens. If you can, you should get the injured person to initial your notes or sign them to show agreement, or at the minimum, to state verbally in front of at least one witness that “this is what happened, and this is my injury/ how I feel.”
These incidents are obviously a sticky situation. A lot depends on the relationship you have with a person who got injured. If it is a stranger or mere acquaintance, they are more likely to want to make a claim. It is you the homeowner who decides (and do so within a couple days) whether or not to file a claim on your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy. If you know the person well – they are friends or family – you may just offer to cover their doctor visit or visits. You have to look at the amounts and determine which is better for you financially – what is your deductible on your Homeowner’s insurance policy?
It’s really important to know what your policy covers. How much will the injured person be needing/demanding? It could be more than your policy allows, depending on your coverage. And depending on their level of injury. That’s when things can get complicated, and even unpleasant. So being knowledgeable in advance will help you. Review your policy now and ask your insurance agent if you have any questions.
The next step after the injured person seeks medical treatment or leaves your property is to contact your insurance company and report the incident. If injuries were substantial you will be assigned to an insurance adjuster. He or she will not only speak to you by phone to take your claim but will probably visit your home and speak to you in person. You should provide any notes and pictures you have from the day of the accident.
If an injury occurs on your property, once medical attention has been seeking the next thing to do is to contact your insurance company and make them aware of the incident. For minor injuries, the report can be done over the phone. But if the injuries were more substantial the claim will most likely be given to an insurance adjuster, who will probably want to meet with you and visit your property. Once an insurance adjuster has been assigned to your case it is out of your hands. They will speak to any witnesses and medical professionals involved, and get a copy of medical records for all treatment. The claim won’t be closed until treatment for the individual is complete or any long-term medical needs have been determined.
Your homeowner’s insurance company will pay for the injured person’s medical expenses, lost income, pain, and suffering, and if applicable—permanent disability. There could be punitive damages if it is determined that you the property owner were willfully careless or negligent. Claims like these can end up in court. You can avoid these legal claims by properly maintaining your property, warning guests of any hazards, and understanding your homeowner’s policy – as well as increasing your coverage to the highest and best that you can afford.