We all pay for homeowners insurance but most of us have never read our policy. Depending on where you live you may have coverage for natural events like tornadoes and flooding. But one of the questions that personal injury attorneys occasionally hear is “what do I do if someone gets hurt on my property?” The reason you have homeowners insurance is so that you do not have to pay out of your pocket if your property is damaged or if you get sued because someone is injured at your home.
The very first thing that you need to do if this happens is to assess the extent of the injuries. Determine how badly the person has been hurt and decide whether medical action needs to be taken. You may need to call an ambulance or give the person a ride to a medical center. Or they may pick themselves up, dust themselves off and claim to be fine–but could develop soreness, pain or complications after the fact. So it is very important is to take pictures of the situation and take good notes while everything is fresh in your mind. If possible, get the injured person to agree to the notes you have written. Ideally they agree to what you wrote in front of a witness or have them sign your notes.
This is obviously a delicate situation. How you handle this type of incident largely depends on what type of relationship you have with a person who got injured. If it is simply an acquaintance or a first-time visitor to your property they are more likely to pursue a lawsuit against you. If they are a friend or family member, you may be able to work it out without attorney involvement. Obviously it is your decision whether to file a homeowner’s claim. You should take pictures of what caused the fall or accident such as protruding rocks or floorboards, a hole in the ground, a falling branch—whatever it was. You have the choice of contacting the police so that both parties can make an official statement, which the officer will record.
What is important is that you know what your policy covers. Someone who’s injured may simply look for you to reimburse their medical costs but in other cases the injured party will decide to submit a claim for even more than your homeowner’s insurance policy covers. This is where it can get sticky for you. Know your policy and its limitations. Ask your insurance agent if you have questions about any potential scenario.
If an injury occurs on your property, once medical attention has been sought the next thing to do is to contact your insurance company and make them aware of the incident. For minor injuries, the report can be done over the phone. But if the injuries were more substantial the claim will most likely be given to an insurance adjuster, who will probably want to meet with you and visit your property. Once an insurance adjuster has been assigned to your incident you can now let them handle the situation. It is now out of your hands. They will take testimony from any witnesses and will call on experts if they feel it is necessary. They will get a copy of medical records from the injured party’s doctors and the case will remain open until it has been determined that the injuries are either healed or whether they will be ongoing and permanent.
Your homeowner’s insurance company will have to pay for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and if applicable—permanent disability and/or punitive damages if it is determined that you the property owner were willfully careless or negligent. These situations can sometimes end up in court and both parties are represented by personal injury attorneys. You can avoid these legal claims by properly maintaining your property, warning guests of any hazards, and understanding your homeowner’s policy.