Savvy homeowners know that standard homeowners insurance typically does
more than protect the structure of their houses from covered perils such
as fire and wind. Among other things, it offers coverage for the contents
of a home, and it includes two types of protection in case someone is
injured on your property.
One of the major ways these protections come into play is if there is a
slip-and-fall injury on your property, particularly if you could be considered
to blame for the accident. Following is information about these protections
and how they can help you, as well as ways that you can reduce the chances
of needing them.
Personal liability coverage
This is the biggie. It can help if someone slips, say on a loose step
leading to your porch, falls and breaks a leg. Your visitor, even if it
is someone you never invited to your property, could sue you for medical
treatment, including rehabilitation expenses, loss of any wages and even
pain and suffering, particularly if it later comes out that you knew about
the step and didn't repair it.
However, homeowners must be aware that certain things could void the personal
liability coverage. Conducting illegal activities is one of these, but
so is operating a business on your property. If the injury is related
to a commercial enterprise, it could your responsibility if you don't
have business insurance. Other things that could create problems for you
are having a swimming pool, trampoline or even a dog – depending
on the breed – that your insurance provider doesn't know about.
Coverage typically starts with a $100,000 limit on standard home insurance
policies. However, it can be increased to $300,000 or even $500,000 for
a comparatively small premium increase. Given the high cost of medical
treatment these days, it might make sense to increase coverage.
Medical payments coverage
Sometimes the person who slips and falls on your steps doesn't want
to sue, but that person does want help with his or her bills for treatment.
In this situation, you could be able to use the medical payments coverage
that's typically included in a standard homeowners insurance policy.
The standard amount of medical payments coverage is $1,000 per incident.
Again, the homeowner has the option of raising this amount.
If you've boosted your personal liability coverage to $500,000 and
still don't feel comfortable that you're protected, you could
consider buying a separate umbrella policy. It will kick in once your
homeowners or auto insurance policies have exhausted their limits. Coverage
begins at $1 million but can be increased to as much as $5 million.
Wise homeowners will ask many questions throughout the underwriting process
that precedes the issuance of a homeowners policy. Additional insurance
coverage is important for anyone with special features on the property
that present risks to others. Higher insurance premiums for the additional
insurance are more affordable than substantial losses that are not covered
under the policy. Close review of the policy documentation will reveal
the coverage limits and excluded situations. Careful insurance shopping
is essential for the homeowner who wishes to carry proper coverage at
an affordable cost.
This article was contributed by Arthur Murray, who writes for
HomeInsurance.com. Arthur has more than 30 years of experience writing for newspapers and
magazines. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1979
with a bachelor's degree in Journalism.