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As a homeowner, you are not liable for every slip and fall that happens in your home. To be held responsible for a person's injuries, you had to have been negligent in a way that caused the accident. If a person slips because they happened to lose their balance, you wouldn't be liable. If they tripped and fell because of unfinished construction on your staircase, then you would likely be liable. We go into more detail about the nature of slip-and-fall claims below.
When does homeowners insurance cover a slip-and-fall accident?
Homeowners insurance doesn't really cover slip-and-fall accidents. However, it will step in to cover the cost of a legal defense and/or eventual payout should a slip-and-fall suit, or any liability suit, be brought against you. You would only be held liable if it can be proven the cause of the injured person's fall was a result of your negligence.
A person cannot come into your home, slip because their shoes are untied, then sue you for medical damages. They can, however, sue you if they fell because your stairs were unsafe, or your carpets were not properly secured, or your floor was wet and you did not inform them.
Slip-and-falls are just part of the wide range of liability suits that can be brought against a homeowner, such as dog bites. Here are some more examples of tripping and falling you could be liable for:
- A person slipping on your unshoveled driveway.
- A person trips on a skateboard hidden under clutter.
- A person falls over a loose nail in the floorboards.
- A person trips over unkempt tree roots in your backyard.
If someone sues you, how much are you covered for?
Most homeowners policies offer a minimum of $100,000 of liability insurance, which is separate from the coverage that protects the structure of your home or property. Given the cost of medical and legal expenses, $100,000 may not be enough for most homeowners to be properly insured against liability suits.
To be sufficiently insured, we always recommend homeowners (and car owners) weigh the amount of their total assets and how likely they are to be the target of a liability claim. People are generally more interested in pursuing a liability claim if they know you'll be able to pay. In addition, the more regularly you're exposed to chances to be held liable, such as car sharing or owning a swimming pool, should also factor into your decision.
Luckily, the cost of increasing your liability coverage is not expensive. We found that you can increase your limits from $100,000 to $1,000,000 for as little as an extra $8 per year. The final price depends on your individual circumstances, but we wouldn't expect you to pay much more to increase your liability limits on your homeowners policy. If you want or need an umbrella policy, we've found that homeowners can pay an extra $150 to $300 per year.
What to do if someone sues you for a slip-and-fall accident
If someone tripped and fell in your home and wants you to pay for their injuries, they will have to file a claim through your insurance company. We recommend that you comply and be open with all of your insurance information. Don't try to hide the identity of your insurer, as it will only lead to further legal issues. Next, your insurer will send an adjuster to conduct an investigation, get statements and develop an understanding of the case.
Unless your intention was malicious and you purposely caused the fall, your insurer should cover you.
Your insurance company will pay for your defense and try to negotiate as small a payout as possible. In most cases, if the person suing you seems likely to win, the insurer will want to settle with them out of court. If the case advances into a legal proceeding, your insurance company will cover any legal expenses you incur. Should you lose your case, they will then pay the settlement determined by the court.