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Legal Thoughts/Considerations on Homeowner’s Insurance

Victor Strauss Law LLC Feb. 1, 2019

Considered by many to cover the homestead against property damage or loss due to weather and fire, homeowner’s insurance also comes into play when claims covered by the policy are made against the insured, and/or residents.

Situations can arise involving premises liability claims for guests or persons present at the house, and coverage generally provides liability protection for ice or unsafe surfaces, dog bites, or falls caused by conditions on the premises. The person bringing the claim is required to prove a breach or failure to exercise the required standard of care – a duty under the circumstances. The standard of care required is usually ordinary care under the circumstances, however each case can present unique situations that could possibly require a heightened standard of care, such as what a careful person would do under the same or similar circumstances.

Homeowner’s coverage can apply to situations off of the premises when an insured person is alleged to have behaved negligently by violating a duty. This could involve altercations such as a bar fight, argument at a sports game, road rage incidents, behavior at school, or situations where a personal duty to behave appropriately was not adhered to and caused harm.

Firing a gun in a negligent fashion, and not intentionally, could result in a claim made where it is alleged the bullet/projectile caused damage. This could be damage to a house, or possibly to a person standing behind brush or an enclosure where they were not seen by the shooter.

Conduct which is intentional, where an insured person acts in a way that caused the result, is generally excluded from coverage. There could, however, be variations where coverage would be triggered, such as a situation where it is alleged a parent entrusted a vehicle or weapon to a minor, or a person who is incompetent to manage and use the item appropriately under the circumstances.

Common situations do arise where the benefit of homeowner’s insurance is illustrated. Running (on foot) into a lane of traffic to retrieve something that fell on the roadway, causing cars to stop and slow, where one of the slowing vehicles is struck by a vehicle from behind, may result in a claim against the pedestrian (insured) for running into a lane of traffic when it is unsafe to do so.

Lost or stolen items also fall within homeowner’s coverage, and it is always helpful to have a video or listing of property. Most policies have limits for cash or other valuables and, depending on the policy, coverage may be provided for replacement value.

In the event there is a fire, many policies will provide coverage for an alternate dwelling for a certain time period (usually from 60 days to 6 months). The alternate dwelling is usually one that is similar to the dwelling which is insured.

Although some people consider cancelling homeowner’s insurance once the mortgage on their home is paid off, this can be an expensive proposition in a situation where a claim is made which could result in a judgment lien being placed against the property. While seemingly expensive (for a sum of $1,000-$3,000), homeowner’s coverage is a valuable resource providing protection to the insureds as well as their primary dwelling. Many insurance companies will consider providing an umbrella policy in connection with the homeowner’s policy that could provide an extra level of coverage.

Homeowner’s insurance is a valuable asset, providing peace of mind and protection of not only the homestead, but also to the persons insured under the policy.