Is the Homeowner Responsible When Someone Gets Injured on Their Property?

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Increasing safety features in your home can lower your liability insurance premiums.
Increasing safety features in your home can lower your liability insurance premiums. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Homeowners are sometimes legally responsible when someone gets injured on their property. This is part of premises liability law. The cause of the injury and the reason for the injured party's presence on the property strongly determine the homeowner's potential financial liability. Most homeowners have insurance protection that includes liability coverage.

Premises Liability Basics

In general, premises liability indicates that property owners have general responsibility for the safety of people on their property. If someone injured on your property sues you, a court will decide what, if any, financial liability you have. Typically, such contributing factors to the injury as uneven floor surfaces, poorly marked changes in elevation, slippery surfaces, broken sidewalks, uneven elevators and broken steps would likely lead to successful litigation against you as the homeowner.

Injured Person's Status

Along with the cause of the injury, the legal status of the person injured significantly impacts your legal liability. Plaintiffs are typically considered as an invitee, licensee or trespasser when on your property. An invitee is a guest invited onto the property for the commercial benefit of the owner. Invitees carry the strongest liability for protection by the owner. Licensees are given non-commercial permission to enter the property and have limited liability protection. Trespassers enter your premises without permission and have little guarantee of protection.

Liability Decisions

When a court determines whether you are liable, it weighs your inherent obligation to assure the safety of the visitor. Invitees require the highest level of assurance against hazardous conditions on the property. An injury to an invitee likely means you are liable. A licensee has protection only if he proves you knew of a harmful risk, the licensee did not, and you did not make reasonable effort to make him aware before the injury occurred. Trespassers typically are not given protection from harm since they entered your property without expressed or implied permission.

Homeowner Liability Insurance

Because of the inherent liability risks that come with owning property, a homeowners policy typically includes liability coverage, along with building and contents protection. The liability portion of your policy usually covers you up to a certain amount for legal fees and medical payments when someone is injured or experiences property damage while on your premises. Homeowners with a pool or other riskier property inclusions may add an umbrella insurance policy with higher levels of personal liability protection. You can also get a $1 million umbrella policy for just a few hundred dollars in annual premiums.

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