It is summer BBQ season and it’s a great time to have friends and family over for some backyard summer fun, but, be aware that hosting guests comes with responsibility. The bottom line is that if your neighbor or any other guest in your home slips and falls or injures themselves in some way you may be found negligent and sued for damages. You could even be held liable for injuries caused to a third party by an intoxicated guest who leaves your home. There are some things you should know about liability and injuries sustained on your property.
As a Homeowner you are Obligated to Provide your Guests with a General Duty of Care
A homeowner has an obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment for their guests. This means preventing dangerous physical conditions unless the danger is so visible that it should be apparent. This responsibility is based on traditional standards for negligent behavior, which can hold you to blame for injuries that result from unintentional accidents. A friend or family member injured on your premises may feel compelled to sue to recover damages for medical expenses. Be especially aware if you have underage guests; traditionally courts have imposed higher liability on homeowners when the injuries involve children because they are less able to recognize danger.
Serving Alcohol to Your Guests Can be Risky
The Social Host Liability holds the homeowner responsible for injuries incurred by third parties resulting from their guests who drive home intoxicated. You may be liable if you served alcohol to your guest, knew the guest was drunk and allowed the guest to drive away from your home.
There is Special Liability for Underage Guests
In some states Social Host Liability extends to minor children drinking in your home. Believe it or not, you could be held responsible for underage drinking even if you did not permit the drinking, know that it was taking place and if no damage/harm resulted. In most of these cases homeowners are sued by the parents of the visiting teenager and end up facing legal penalties or possibly even jail time. In other states, a more lenient policy exists and parents can only be held liable for underage drinking by guests in their home under specific circumstances, such as when the drinking results in an accident.
Protect Yourself and your Assets with Homeowners/Renters Insurance
Homeowners insurance is the best way to protect yourself against being sued for accidental injuries to a guest. The policy should cover most types of accidental injuries to guests but likely will not cover injuries that result from intentional acts, such as getting into a fight with a guest. In rare circumstances a court may order an insurance company to pay damages for an intentional act.
A Homeowner’s Insurance Policy combines property insurance, which covers damage to your home and its contents, with liability insurance, which covers physical injury to guests in your home. Some policies will also cover the cost of a personal injury defense attorney if you are sued by a guest injured at your house. The level of liability that you purchase should depend on the value of your home but is typically in the 80 percent to 100 percent of total value range. Be aware that all insurance policies impose a deductible, typically $500 to $1,500 which would need to be paid before any damages are doled out.
Please Understand that Not All Damages Are Covered
Read the fine print of your homeowner’s policy because it will likely reject certain types of losses. As previously mentioned, your policy may exclude intentional injuries to guests in your home. It will almost certainly exclude damage to your car, because you should have separate auto insurance. In most cases you will need to buy flood and earthquake insurance on top of the standard policy. Damages caused by acts of war, acts of God (a thunderstorm for example) or nuclear disaster are not covered.
You Might Have to Negotiate a Claim with Your Insurer
Insurance companies are businesses and they expect to turn a profit by taking in more premiums than they pay out in claims. Your homeowner’s policy claim will receive close scrutiny before it is approved. File claims immediately after your loss as most policies impose time limitations.
Call a Personal Injury Lawyer For Help!
Like many legal situations involving injury and liability, the laws for injuries incurred by people visiting your home are complicated. In addition, you will get the best help by having someone to focus on the specific details of your case including fighting with the insurance company if necessary. Don’t sign any papers or accept any settlement from your insurance company without your lawyer’s counsel and remember that a claim that is denied can be appealed.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!