Slip and Falls & Legal Claims Against Homeowners' Insurance
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you may want to know whether their homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost of your injuries. Accidents on property can take several common forms, such as tripping and falling on stairs, rugs, or slippery substances on the floor. Stairs can be hazardous if they are uneven, lacking handrails, varied in height, or overly shallow. Flat surfaces may pose risks when rugs lack a proper grip pad or have holes or other wear and tear, or when floors are wet or recently waxed. If you live in an area where ice or snow is common in the winter, slip and falls in the outdoor areas of a property may be common as well.
Do not wait to report a slip and fall injury.
Most homeowners have purchased property insurance together with their mortgage. If they have paid off their mortgage or purchased the property without a mortgage, which is rare, they may not have insurance. You should ask the property owner whether they have coverage and, if they do, report the injury to the insurer. Promptly reporting the injury is important because an insurer may suspect that a claim is fraudulent if you wait too long.
Overcoming Resistance From the Homeowner
A homeowner may have an incentive to resist helping an accident victim make a claim. They may be concerned that the insurer will cancel their policy if someone makes a claim under it. Instead, they may try to handle the issue on their own. If the homeowner refuses to provide you with their insurance information or claims that they do not have insurance, you may need to sue them for the information. If the homeowner has a mortgage, you should be especially wary of a claim that they do not have insurance, since lenders almost always require a property owner to purchase insurance as part of the terms of the mortgage.
Pursuing a Claim Based on a Slip and Fall
As with car accidents and other personal injury claims, liability insurance will pay out on a claim only if the policyholder was negligent in some way. If you tripped and fell because of your own carelessness, you will not be entitled to payments. You need to show that the accident happened because the homeowner was negligent. For example, they may have failed to repair a hazard on their property, or they may have created a dangerous condition.
The adjuster for the insurer will ask the homeowner to provide their version of events, and they will ask the accident victim to do the same. You should avoid providing a recorded statement to the adjuster unless you have a lawyer to advise you. Otherwise, you may end up inadvertently waiving some of your rights or damaging your claim.
You can potentially recover reimbursement for both your medical expenses and any lost income. The insurer will require you to support these damages with documentation. Most of the time, a victim will be able to settle their claim after their medical treatment has been completed. If you are unable to reach a fair settlement, you can file a lawsuit against the homeowner, which the insurer will litigate on their behalf.
In addition to personal liability coverage, a homeowner’s liability insurance usually will provide medical payment coverage. Med pay does not depend on proving negligence. It will cover the victim’s medical bills up to a certain amount, often $5,000 or $10,000. You can send your bills to the adjuster for reimbursement until the med pay limit is reached.