Does Homeowner's Insurance Cover Personal Injury Claims?

Many common types of accidents are covered by a homeowners injury liability policy, but there are exceptions.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

If someone is hurt at your house or on your property, as a result of an accident or any kind of unintentional mishap, the liability provision of your homeowners' insurance policy will typically kick in to cover any personal injury claim that is filed. When someone files a claim under your homeowners' policy, that's called a "third party" claim (by way of contrast, when you file a claim for your own losses under your own policy, such as damage to your home from a fire or flood, that's called a "first party" claim). But even if the injured person files a personal injury lawsuit against you, you're still entitled to protection under your policy.

Injury Liability Coverage

Your liability coverage will pay all of the injured person's losses associated with the injury—which means medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages—up to the limits of your coverage. And in the event that a lawsuit is filed against you by someone injured on your property, the insurance company will provide the defense for you (more on this later).

So, if you've got $200,000 in liability insurance as part of your homeowners' policy, your insurance would pay the injured person up to that amount.

In the real world, most insurance claims settle for an amount that is at or below the policy limits. But in some cases, if the injured person has suffered serious or permanent injuries, their claim might go above the policy limits, and then you will be personally on the hook for any amount above the coverage ceiling. But note that even in cases where your liability limits are exceeded, your homeowners' insurance policy may have an "umbrella" provision in place that provides extra protection in precisely those kinds of instances.

So it pays to have more coverage, even if it raises your premiums a little bit. In most insurance policies, the coverage limit varies exponentially based on how much of a premium you are paying—the higher the premium, the higher the liability coverage ceiling.

If there has been any kind of incident at your home or on your property, and you think an injury claim might be filed and your homeowners' coverage might be triggered (whether a slip and fall, a dog bite, or anything else), the first step is letting your insurance company know about the incident.

Insurance Coverage Usually Includes Legal Defense

Your homeowners' insurance policy may come with a free lawyer! A secondary benefit of having a homeowners' policy in place is that the insurance company will typically appoint—and pay for—an attorney to deal with any lawsuit that stems from the underlying incident. In other words, you probably won't need to hire your own lawyer, which is good news for you and your wallet. Hiring a personal injury lawyer can be expensive if you're the one being sued.

Negligence, Strict Liability and Intentional Torts

Most injuries to visitors to your home will be covered under your policy, and most of those injuries will probably be based on accidental incidents that are governed by the legal concept of negligence . A slip and fall accident is a prime example of an incident that would be governed by negligence, meaning that the injured person would need to show that you somehow failed to exercise reasonable care in keeping your property free of hazards, under premises liability standards.

But with some injuries, negligence may not be required. For example, if you live in a "strict liability" dog bite state and your dog bites someone, that person can likely make a third party claim under your homeowners' policy without needing to prove that you were somehow at fault.

Your homeowners' insurance policy will likely not cover any injuries that result from an intentional act on your part. So if you assault someone on your property (especially someone who was there with your permission) and they sue you for their injuries, your homeowners' insurance coverage probably won't protect you.

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