Understanding Homeowner Liability

Nobody wants people to get hurt on their property. But depending on how diligent you are as a property owner, you may or may not be more likely to have not only property damage but injury to human beings occur in or around your home or business. This can have serious consequences for you on a financial and legal level, depending on the circumstances under which the injury occurred. Many property owners know shockingly little about their personal responsibilities regarding injuries on their properties, and this is where you can run into true problems. You need to be careful to educate yourself, rather than burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best. The more you know about your potential risk for injuries on your property, the easier it will be for you to seek out the right homeowners liability protection.

Just as many property owners don’t know about their risks of being held responsible for injuries on their properties, many of them aren’t aware of their options when it comes to homeowners liability protection. Not every property owner is going to need the same type of liability protection; for some, less significant protection policies will suffice. With that being said, let’s explore what you need to know about injuries that occur on your property, as well as exactly what you need to do in order to avoid being held responsible for these injuries. In some cases, you will be held responsible no matter what; simply because you will be responsible. But in other cases, you being held responsible wouldn’t be just. Let’s find out what separates one type of case from the other.

What Makes Me Responsible for an Injury That Occurred On My Property?

Some homeowners erroneously believe that if an injury occurred on their property, they are automatically responsible for it; this leads to them offering to pay for or take responsibility for injuries that they shouldn’t. In cases like these, a homeowner may neglect to even get in touch with a law firm, never mind exploring homeowners liability protection policies. The reality is that many people suffer from serious injuries on properties that are not their own, but this does not automatically mean that another person is liable for those injuries. But there is one type of injury that can quite often be found to be the responsibility of the property owner. This injury is called the slip and fall injury, and you need to be familiar with it as a property owner due to how frequently these types of injuries occur.

Technically speaking, a slip and fall accident is classified as a personal injury. These accidents fall under premises liability injuries, and they often can be attributed to wet floors, falling objects, inadequate security, uneven steps or floors, and other types of unsafe conditions. The reason why you need to acquaint yourself with slip and fall injuries, as well as your property’s propensity for allowing them, is because these types of injuries are among the types that are most frequently attributed to property owners in terms of responsibility. This is because the property owners are often found to be liable for a type of breach of duty. Essentially, if a property owner invites people onto their property and then fails to prevent dangerous conditions and defects from developing, or fails to provide adequate warning regarding these conditions or defects, they could be held responsible for any resulting accidents. This is why people that own properties that are prone to dangerous conditions or defects should consider exploring homeowners liability protection. But while all of this sounds fairly straightforward and easy to understand, it’s much more complex once it’s more thoroughly explored.

The first thing that property owners need to be aware of is their duty to keep their property reasonably safe. The key word that people should keep in mind is the concept of reasonable safety. While an individual may hire a personal injury attorney as soon as they are injured on a property that is not their own, that doesn’t automatically mean they have a proper case on their hands. The property owner does need to inspect their property regularly; they need to do everything that they can within reason to ensure they not only are keeping the property safe and secure, but are taking steps to make sure that they are aware of any changes. Properties do experience changes and even transformations over time. A property owner needs to conduct these inspections to stay aware of these changes. But with that being said, is it reasonable to expect a homeowner to conduct these inspections every few weeks? If dangerous conditions develop in between inspections and the homeowner is unaware of them, is it reasonable for the homeowner to be held responsible for resulting injuries? These are the types of gray areas that can develop as injuries occur.

Now, if you are aware of dangerous conditions on your property and fail to do anything to warn visitors or remedy these dangerous conditions, it may not matter if you’ve invested in homeowners liability protection policies. You will have been in breach of what can reasonably be expected of you as a homeowner. For example, think about what would happen if you knew that there were fallen trees littered across your property, obstructing dirt and gravel roads. If you didn’t invest in a proper tree removal process, you may be held responsible for any resulting injuries. With that being said, even under these circumstances, there are some variations to be aware of. If the injuries in question occurred because someone was trespassing on your property versus visiting it on invitation, you may not be held fully responsible for the injury. That is because it could be argued that you would not have been aware that people were “visiting” your property in the first place; thus you could not have reasonably known that they need to be warned, or that the dangerous conditions needed to be resolved. Some property owners do not resolve dangerous conditions in a timely manner, but that is in part because they have no intention for their properties to be visited by other people.

In summary, the key issue that determines whether or not you will be held responsible for an injury that occurs on your property, regardless of a homeowners liability protection policy in place, is whether or not you made sure that you kept your property reasonably safe. If you know about dangerous conditions or defects and neglect to resolve them or fail to properly inspect your property, you could be neglecting reasonable responsibilities. These responsibilities do not necessarily include having a property surveyed on a weekly basis, to be sure. But they do include reasonably ensuring that a property is as safe as possible.

What Are My Exact Responsibilities as a Property Owner?

It’s important to understand your specific responsibilities as a property owner before you seek out homeowners liability protection policies. The degree of responsibility a homeowner holds towards a person visiting their property depends in part on the type of category their visitor falls into. There are three main categories for people who visit properties and are potentially vulnerable to injuries. These categories can be defined by premises liability injury lawyers, and homeowners need to be aware of them.

The first category is that of the invitee, who would obviously be invited onto a property by the homeowner. This could be a member of the public in general, or it could be a person who visits a property for specific business matters. When an invitee is about to visit a property, a homeowner not only needs to resolve dangerous conditions and defects; they also need to conduct preemptive inspections to ensure that they are as aware of these conditions and defects as possible. This pertains to issues big and small; These conditions are not isolated to tree removals. Gutters need to be inspected as well. They need to uncover any potential hazards to a degree that would be reasonable to any other person of normal intelligence.

The second category that we need to consider is that of the licensee. A licensee is a person that is either visiting a property for their own purposes or for a social function. This means that they weren’t necessarily invited to the property specifically by the homeowner. While the licensee is allowed to visit, unlike a trespasser, they are not visiting because of the homeowner. Therefore, the homeowner needs to make sure that there aren’t any hazards on the property that could put visiting licensees in danger. But they don’t necessarily need to take the steps to inspect the property and ensure that there aren’t any risks that they aren’t already aware of. A homeowner with licenses visiting should be aware of their property’s general landscape design and may benefit from a homeowners liability protection policy. But they don’t necessarily need to be worried to the point that they pay for additional inspections.

Finally, there are trespassers to consider. A trespasser is not authorized to be on a property, and therefore a homeowner does not necessarily need to go above and beyond to ensure that trespassers are as safe as possible. But if they are aware of the presence of trespassers, they cannot necessarily ignore that presence either. A homeowner cannot knowingly allow a trespasser to be injured, in other words. If a property owner is aware of frequent trespassers, in particular, they could potentially be held responsible if they do not resolve the dangerous conditions that could potentially harm those trespassers. If a child, in particular, is trespassing on a property, the homeowner is particularly responsible for their health and safety. This is because children can be drawn to hazards on a property in a way that adults wouldn’t be. Therefore, if you’re aware of the fact that children are trespassing on your property, perhaps climbing up on your roof, for example, you would subsequently need to pay for a roof cleaning and inspection to make sure that those children are as safe as possible.

What Does It Mean to Invest In Homeowners Liability Protection Policies?

So, what does a homeowners liability protection policy offer you? This is specifically a type of policy that can be offered by a standard insurance company; you don’t necessarily need to go out of your way to find this kind of policy. This liability coverage will cover the cost of injuries or damages that occurred when the person or people were hurt on your property. Additionally, this coverage should also cover your expenses if you do end up needing to protect yourself in court. It is meant to protect your assets.

This type of coverage should also cover bodily harm. The medical payments covered under this type of insurance is often referred to as guest medical. The damage that would be done to your property would be covered as well. This means that ultimately, through homeowners liability protection coverage, the injured party will have their medical bills covered, and you will have your property covered. But there are limits to these types of policies to consider. Minimally, most policies will cover up to $100,000 in damages and medical payments, though experts typically recommend that the lowest amount of coverage invested in is $300,000.

Understand that while you would be covered under these policies, as well as anyone considered a family member or a fellow resident at your home, your tenants would not be. As well as slips and falls, most policies also cover dog bites and neighborhood damage. Food poisoning, libel and slander, and intentional acts typically would not be covered, and you’d need to seek legal counsel regarding them immediately.

It’s crucial for you to understand your rights as a homeowner, as well as what you can do to ensure that you are protected if someone is hurt on your property. Get in touch with an insurance policy; see what they can offer you!

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