Homeowners' Liability: Dangers Around the Home, with Informative Videos
Most homeowners realize if someone is injured on their property, a lawsuit might well follow. You can be sued and found liable, even if the person was not an invited guest. Many homeowners, however, are under the gross misconception that their homeowners’ insurance policy will take care of eveything. The problem is that a vast number of homeowners have a false feeling of security. Many don’t carry enough liability insurance to cover the astronomical costs that can result from a suit, including legal fees, medical costs, and monetary awards for pain and suffering. Unfortunately, people are all too sue-happy these days. According to attorneys who handle such cases, homeowners lose 67% of personal injury cases, and the average award to the injured person is almost $80,000. Just one accident could be financially devastating to the homeowner.
While some accidents are unavoidable, there are ways to make your home and property safer. According to experienced homeowner's insurance agents, most lawsuits involving homeowners and injuries are related to five specific areas. If you pay special attention to these areas and make them safer, your chances of getting sued can be greatly reduced.
Dogs: Dog attacks and bites are the number one reason homeowners are sued. If you have a dog, make sure it’s safely secured. If it’s an outside pet, it should be in a strong fence. If it’s an inside pet, don’t let it out to run free. Always keep the dog on a leash. A dog can even create problems when it’s inside. For example, it could jump on or bite a guest in your home. It’s a good idea to close it up in a back room when you have guests over. Your pooch might be the friendliest dog in the world, but he could easily get over-excited with guests and injure them unintentionally. If someone the dog is not familiar with enters the house, the dog could become protective of its territory. Family dogs often become very protective of “their” children, which sometimes leads to aggressive responses. For example, your kids could be playing with other kids, squealing and wrestling. The well intentioned dog might think its family member is in danger and act accordingly. Many children have received dog bites due to this canine confusion. No dog is 100% safe, so it’s important to never leave children and dogs together unattended by an adult. If you own a certain breed of dog, you may need to purchase a special homeowners insurance policy.
Stairs and steps: Stairs and steps, both inside and outside, are the sites for many home accidents. To make them safer, ensure that yours are sturdy and in good condition. A strong railing or grab bar are in order. Make sure the areas are easily navigable and free of toys and other clutter on the steps that could cause tripping. It’s also best if the stairs and steps are lighted at night.
Swimming pools: Swimming pools are another place for accidents and are a top site for injuries leading to lawsuits. Toddlers drown every year in pools, of course, but there a lot of other dangers lurking around pools besides the water itself. Slippery concrete invites falls, as do slides and diving boards. Your pool should have a fence around it that meets or exceeds your local code, and the fenced area should have a gate with a secure lock. When an adult is not present, the gate should remain locked. If you’re in the process of having a pool put in, this could represent a danger, too. Most kids are fascinated by deep holes, and the gaping maw could easily be an accident waiting to happen. A fence would be best, but that might be impossible. The area should at least be marked with bright yellow hazard tape and flags.
Outdoor play areas: Swing sets, jungle gyms, and trampolines present another area of danger. They’re magnets for kids, and neighboring tikes will often show up uninvited to use the play areas. By having these areas secured in a fence with a locking gate, you can at least stop the uninvited guests. Even invited guests can cause a problem, however. Many swing sets have rough bolts and screws protruding from the legs that can cause injury. These should be covered with protective materials. The area directly under the play areas is often the site for falls and hard landings, so some soft material should be used there to reduce fall impact. Trampolines should have protective mats covering the springs. They also need a net enclosure to prevent the children’s falling off the structure. Even with all these safety devices, nothing can take the place of responsible adult supervision.
Slip and fall accidents: This is another major generator of lawsuits. Of course, there’s no way to completely eliminate the potential for this kind of accident, but there are ways to significantly reduce the threat. Tile, hardwood, and concrete floors, whether inside or outside, are the major culprits. When tile and concrete get wet, or even damp, they become extremely slick. So do just-waxed wood floors. Keep the floors dry, and use no-slip rugs or mats, especially at doorways and in bathrooms, carports, and garages. Keep clutter away from doorways, too, and make sure electrical cords do not pose a tripping danger.
Another area responsible for household accidents is electricity. Even though electrical hazards aren't counted among the top five, these can prove deadly. Faulty wiring, overloading circuits, and the improper placement of electrical appliances can cause lethal electrocutions and can also be fire hazards. To learn more about this topic, watch the first video below.
If you don't have liability coverage in your homeowners insurance plan, get it before an accident happens. If you already have liability coverage in your homeowners insurance, sit down with your insurance representative and discuss your policy. You can also shop for homeowners insurance online and get homeowners insurance quotes online. This is a great way to compare prices and services.
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