Homeowners Liability Insurance Explained
If you do everything you can to protect your family and care for your property, you may be asking yourself how safe your home and belongings will be if the unexpected happens. You may also wonder what impact an incident may have on your financial well-being.
Your homeowners coverage provides financial protection against risks including home fires, burglaries, and damage from storms. Does it provide enough coverage for your liability and the risks to your assets?
Homeowner Liability Facts
- Property owners must keep their property safe, even for trespassers
- A homeowner can be liable for any dangerous conditions that go unrepaired
- The owner can be held responsible for everything from slippery walkways to leaving tools, ladders, and equipment out that cause harm to a visitor
- Homeowners are responsible for the actions of their pets; some companies will not provide coverage to owners of high risk “bully breeds” such as pit bulls
What Is the Definition of Liability?
Liability can be defined as “a legal or financial obligation.” As a property owner, you are legally responsible to make sure the premises of your home and property are safe, and you can be held accountable if anything happens on your property, whether due to oversight or negligence.
For instance, you may be liable if you fail to keep your dog restrained and he bites someone, causing a severe injury.
Typically, you will only be held responsible for an accident, injury, or property damage if you are in some way negligent, or if you have failed to ensure that your home and property are safe for visitors.
For example, you want to be sure your sidewalks and steps are not icy, that there are no tripping hazards, and that a person walking across your yard cannot fall into a gopher hole and break an ankle.
If your home is under construction, or if you have a landscaping project under way, you can be liable for harm to others if you have not put any measures in place to protect visitors from being harmed by the equipment and tools.
So, the best advice is to do everything you can to make your home and property safe, and then make sure you have adequate coverage for unforeseen incidents.
What Does Liability Insurance Cover?
The liability portion of your homeowners insurance protects your financial assets in the event that you or another member of your household are legally responsible for damage to another person or their property. For example, it will potentially cover:
- The cost of repairs to another person’s property
- The medical expenses of an injured party
- The cost of your legal defense when an attorney must defend you against bodily injury or property damage
Depending upon the specifics of your homeowners insurance policy, you may also be covered for defamation. Under other circumstances, this coverage may be available if you have your agent add a separate endorsement to your policy.
Home Liability Protects You From Financial Loss
The assets your home liability insurance is designed to protect includes everything from your liquid assets, such as your checking and savings accounts, to your investments and retirement accounts, your valuable personal property, your home, and any other properties such as a vacation home.
The nature of litigation today is that your financial assets can all come into the picture if you are liable for personal damage and are taken to court. When you have adequate liability coverage in place, it can provide peace of mind that your family assets are protected.
What if I Don’t Have Enough Home Liability Coverage?
If someone is injured either on your premises or as a result of some negligence on your part, you need to think about your liability coverage. Hopefully, you will have a simple settlement on your hands, in which your liability coverage pays for the injured person’s medical expenses or property damage.
But it is important to know what is at stake in an extreme circumstance — for example, if a visitor experiences a severe head injury on your property, or is paralyzed after a fall from your deck.
Your homeowners insurance has a liability limit set at the time you purchase your coverage. For example, a common coverage amount is $100,000. If someone files a large lawsuit against you, the legal claim can potentially exceed this coverage limit. In that event, your other assets can be at risk, including your home, savings, and investments.
To protect your assets against such risks, there are two strategies you can consider:
- Increase the amount of liability coverage included in your homeowners policy, for example to $300,000 or $500,000, to help cover the cost of a large legal claim, medical expenses and property damage. The cost of increasing home liability coverage is typically very affordable.
- Buy an “umbrella liability” policy that will kick in when your home, auto. or other liability coverage limits are exhausted. Umbrella insurance is also priced affordably.
Umbrella Policies for Home Insurance
An umbrella policy provides extra liability protection for your current assets and future income in the event that a large legal claim exceeds your homeowners liability or auto liability coverage.
Whereas your homeowners policy would cover the costs of medical expenses, property damage, and legal claims up to your homeowners liability limits (such as $100,000, $300,000 or $500,000), your umbrella policy would provide protection up to $1 million dollars or more.
You can buy umbrella liability coverage in increments of $1 million. It is important to evaluate your risks and the assets you want to protect to determine how much liability coverage you really need.