When and How Does Homeowners Insurance Cover A Georgia Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit?

Key Points:

  • If you’re injured on someone’s property due to negligence, most homeowners insurance policies include “personal liability coverage,” which is designed to protect negligent at-fault homeowners.
  • A personal injury case can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years to reach a settlement, depending on the length of investigation, your recovery and negotiations.
  • The size of your payout depends entirely on the specifics of your case, how severe your injuries are, and the skill of your lawyer.
  • The extent of injury, whether it is permanent and the amounts of medical bills, prescription bills, hospital bills and other expenses will affect the total amount in damages you receive.

Questions Answered:

Most people think of homeowners insurance existing just to provide coverage for damage or burglary to a home or certain personal property.  But, homeowners insurance may also cover and protect your personal assets if you are responsible or liable for some personal injury claims.

How Does Homeowners Insurance Cover an Accidental Injury?

The most common way a homeowner can be responsible for an accident happens when his or her negligence causes a guest to be injured on the owner’s property.  Here are some examples:
– A homeowner fails to maintain a deck or porch railing and a guest is injured when the deck or railing collapses.
– The homeowner’s dog bites a guest at a party due after the dog’s owner knows the dog has a tendency to be aggressive.
– The owner allows the swimming pool to become green with an algae bloom and child falls in and drowns because he could not be located in time to be rescued.
In these examples, if homeowners’ insurance did not exist, the property owner might have to pay the claim or verdict personally or a judgment lien could be placed against the home.

What is Homeowners Medical Payments Coverage and How Can it Help?

Most homeowners insurance policies have a rider known as medical payments coverage.  In some states or under some policies this can be called personal liability coverage.  In broad terms, this is an amount of insurance – typically $1,000.00 to $5,000, but it can be more – that pays for an injured guest’s medical bills, regardless of whether the homeowner was negligent or at-fault.

Does Homeowners Insurance Typically Pay For Injuries to a Resident of the Home?

Not usually.  A standard or typical homeowners insurance policy does not cover accidents or injuries to persons outside the household.  So, while a home policy will usually cover an incident, such as a guest slipping on a roller-skate left in a dark hallway, the policy would not cover a resident of the house falling on the same hazard.

Can a Homeowners Insurance Policy Cover an Injury Away From the Property?

It can.  Because this insurance is designed to protect the home owner’s personal assets, as well as the mortgage company’s interest in the property, negligent personal injuries caused by a resident of the house are often covered.  For example, homeowners insurance may cover a dog that bites in a city or county park or a shopping center parking lot.  The Millar Law Firm has also successfully recovered money under home owner’s policies for accidental shootings or other unusual negligence that took place off-property.

How Do You Start a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim for a Personal Injury?

If you have been injured at the home of another person, or even away from that person’s home – but he or she is a homeowner – begin by asking for the name of the owner’s insurance carrier and a phone number to the insurance company. You may also ask that person to contact their insurance company, and have an adjuster or claim representative call you.

Be careful in speaking with a claim’s adjuster before or without hiring a personal injury attorney, however.  It is likely that the insurance adjuster may want to take a recorded statement from you that could be used against you later.  In many cases, the adjuster will sound friendly and helpful, but the adjuster’s job is actually to pay as little as possible to cover your claim.  If you give a recorded statement and make a mistake in how you explain your accident, or you unwittingly answer leading questions that deflect blame away from the negligent homeowner, your case could be seriously weakened or lost.  We believe it is always best to speak to a lawyer before giving a written or recorded statement to a homeowner’s insurance adjuster.

What Should I do if the Homeowner Who Injured Me Refuses to Provide Insurance Information?

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common situation.  We find that after an injury many people are told by the owner that he or she will help in “any way possible” or “will pay your medical bills.”  But when the negligent owner is presented with the bill or finds out how much your medical expenses are, not only will they not pay, they refuse to give you any insurance information.  What should you do?

Many times, the only way to move forward after a homeowner fails to give you their insurance information is to hire the services of an attorney or lawyer who handles injury claims.  A letter from a lawyer demanding that the case be turned over to the home insurance company usually gets the job done.  But some property owners still refuse to cooperate, usually making a lawsuit necessary.  We find that filing and serving a lawsuit on a home’s owner who has insurance, while a last resort, almost always results in the owner finally notifying his or her insurance carrier.

How Does a Home Owner’s Insurance Claim Work?

Much like a car accident case, in homeowners injury cases you will usually receive and pay for all of your medical care and treatment before being reimbursed for your health care expenses, together with all of your other damages, when you settle with the insurance company. One important exception is that many homeowner’s policies have a small amount of med-pay coverage, which can be accepted before the case is fully settled.

In the event that settlement cannot be agreed upon, you will have the option to file a lawsuit and pursue the claim in a civil court. Some cases will settle after a suit is filed, while a few will go all the way to trial and a Judge or Jury will issue a verdict.

How Long Does a Homeowners’ Claim Take to Settle?

In large part, how long it takes for any insurance claim, including home or property insurance cases, depends on the length of time it takes for you to recover from your injuries.  But, it can also be controlled by the amount of available insurance.

Most of the time, you probably do not want to begin settlement negotiations until the full extent of your medical bills and expenses are known. It can be difficult or impossible to re-open your case if you settle too quickly, before all of your harms, losses and damages are known.

Sometimes, however, there is only a small amount of insurance compared to the severity of the injury. In such cases, waiting may not make any difference and it can be in your best interest to demand and accept the entire policy limit.

An example of such a claim might be a severe dog mauling in which the victim is hospitalized and disfigured, and the dog’s owner has only a $100,000.00 policy. A case like this may settle for the entire policy limit while the injured person is still recovering from her injuries, because this is the full amount of the available insurance. Under the same facts, however, if there were a larger $1,000,000.00 insurance policy, the case is likely to take longer to resolve because more facts will need to be known about the full extent of the past and future medical care in order to determine what the full value of the case is.

Should You Talk to the Homeowner’s Insurance Adjuster?

As Georgia injury attorneys, we do not recommend talking with any insurance adjuster without first consulting with a lawyer.  Even the most seemingly simple cases can have legal or medical defenses that you may not be familiar with.  An insurance claims representative or adjuster is trained to act friendly yet look for ways of building a defense that will allow the insurance company to pay-out the least amount of compensation he or she can get away with paying.

Saying the wrong thing to an adjuster, or just being a “nice guy or gal” and making damaging admissions about fault or the nature of your injuries – like saying you are “fine,” when you are not – can haunt you later when the claim is denied or a much smaller than expected settlement offer is made.

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What Does An Injury Consultation Cost in A Home Owner’s Insurance Case?

Most reputable attorneys offer free injury case reviews. The Millar Law Firm does not charge for injury case consultations. Call or contact us today, and you will be able to speak to a friendly, knowledgeable and compassionate lawyer today – usually within a few minutes.

Article Summary

If you are injured while on someone else’s property, then that person’s homeowner’s liability coverage may pay for your damages. Whether it’s a fall from a poorly constructed or repaired deck, a dog attack, or drowning in the property owner’s pool, the homeowner’s liability coverage may be used to pay for your medical bills, prescription drugs, lost wages, and other costs. In the case of wrongful death, the same insurance policy may pay. If the property owner does not maintain a liability policy, he/she may be forced to pay out-of-pocket for a court-ordered judgment.

If you are injured in such a way, ask the homeowner for their insurance information. If they don’t have insurance or are reluctant to provide that information, you will probably want to consult a personal injury lawyer. You may not have to file a lawsuit to compel the homeowner to live up to their obligations under law; once a lawyer becomes involved, defendants tend to become more cooperative.

- D. Lo
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