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Challenges to Suing a Homeowner’s Insurance Policy for Personal Injury

Someone who suffers an injury at a private home may be entitled to coverage under the homeowner’s insurance policy. Insurers are experts at denying claims and will frequently look for reasons why an injury did not qualify under the homeowner’s insurance policy. Policies are written to provide insurers with numerous ways of escaping liability. As a consequence the insurer may need to be sued, often along with the homeowner. In doing so the injured plaintiff can face a number of challenges. Here are two examples.

Coverage limits may not fully compensate the plaintiff

The first challenge can simply be the coverage limits built into the policy. It should be no surprise that a homeowner’s policy is deliberately designed to limit the financial exposure of the insurer to risk. Policies do this in part by placing strict caps on how much the insurer will pay out for different events. The details of these caps can draw fine distinctions between who qualifies for coverage, how much coverage will be given to specific types of injuries, and so on.

A policy will always specify how much the insurer will pay for a given injury (normally some factor of $100,000). Many policies include “umbrella” provisions that add an extra catch-all value on top of the itemized coverage. The insurer will not pay more than the maximum amount of coverage. The first challenge for plaintiffs is often that the amount available under the homeowner’s policy is simply not enough to cover all the costs associated with an injury. A policy with a coverage limit of $100,000 per incident and a $500,000 umbrella provision will not make a plaintiff whole if the plaintiff is facing $1 million in damages.

Plaintiffs may not be covered in some situations

A second challenge can arise if the plaintiff is not within the scope of coverage. Some policies may distinguish between full-time residents, guests, and contractors. It may also disclaim responsibility for specific types of injury. As a hypothetical example, a policy might specify that the insurer does not cover accidental electrocution of someone who is working on electrical systems without the appropriate professional license.

One area where this “category” problem can be important is cases where the injured person was performing services for the homeowner at the time of the injury. Many homeowners’ insurance policies disclaim responsibility for injuries to contractors, with the idea being that the contractors will already have their own insurance. If a neighbor is injured while helping a landowner clear brush, the insurer may look for ways to characterize the neighbor as a contractor. One way it might succeed in doing that is if the neighbor was being compensated in some way for the work. For example, if the neighbor is helping out as a way to repay the landowner for lending the neighbor a tractor, that might be enough to place the neighbor outside the coverage scope.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

Being injured at another person’s home raises a lot of difficult questions, not least of which can be how to preserve the relationship with the homeowner despite being in a legal dispute. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. We work with clients to examine the complete picture of each case to ensure that the client’s personal and financial interests are protected. Call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.