The answer to that question is up to you – and your situation. Being sued as a result of an injury that occurred on your property isn’t something you expect. But it is something you shouldn’t gloss over. It really could happen.
The first thing you should do is evaluate the risks on your property and address them. That means repair loose steps and railings leading to your house, remove any hazards from your yard and make sure there are no rips in your carpet. All could lead to accidents, and you could be liable for medical expenses, including rehabilitation, lost wages and even damages for pain and suffering should someone fall and injure themselves.
What would you do in such a situation? You could call on your homeowners insurance for help. Standard home insurance policies typically include six types of protection, including personal liability coverage. Limits start at $100,000, but you can boost that amount up to $500,000, though you’ll pay nominally more to do it. That way, when a lawsuit is filed, you could get help with legal bills and with any damages you’re ordered to pay.
However, there are situations when even $500,000 might not be enough. That’s when you should consider an umbrella policy, which would increase your liability coverage. Umbrella policy limits usually start at $1 million but can be increased to $5 million.
Why would you need that much coverage? Consider the following scenarios:
You own a swimming pool
Swimming pools are dangerous to you and your family and your guests. There is the danger of drowning, of course, and there also is the risk of falling on slippery pool decks. Injuries also occur when people dive into water that’s too shallow.
But the danger doesn’t stop there with family members and folks you invite to the pool. You also can be held responsible for anything that happens to people who are trespassing on your property when they go in your pool, particularly children. Legally, pools are termed “an attractive nuisance.” That means they entice people too young to know better.
That’s why you need to build a fence – at least 5 feet high – with a self-closing and latching gate when you install a swimming pool. The same goes for trampolines, by the way. Your insurance company must know you have a pool, by the way, or you could be denied coverage.
You own a trampoline
Once more, you must let your carrier know you have a trampoline. Again, you’ll need a fence – trampolines also are considered attractive nuisances. The risks, of course, involve falling off the trampoline or even suffering injuries in the normal course of using it. In addition to boosting your liability insurance, you’ll need to set rules for anyone who uses the trampoline and supervise children at all times.
You own a certain breed of dog
More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and about 800,000 seek medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Though there is debate over the practice, many homeowners insurance carriers reject coverage for the following breeds:
· Doberman pinscher
· Staffordshire terrier
· German shepherd
· Chow Chow
· Wolf-dog hybrid
Again, you must let your carrier know if you have a dog, particularly if it fits among these breeds. Otherwise, your claim could be denied, leaving you on your own if a lawsuit is filed.
To increase your personal liability coverage, give your current insurance company a call to check on its options. Price your coverage with similar offers from other companies until you are able to decide which choice will be best. Again, it’s up to you to protect yourself, your family and your assets.
This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley, Editor of the HomeInsurance.com blog. Carrie has been writing insurance news and consumer information for HomeInsurance.com since 2008. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in 2005 with a B.A. in Professional Writing and Journalism.