As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to ensure your property is safe, secure, and navigable at all times. This is true whether you invite someone onto your property or they enter without permission. If you fail in your duty, and someone experiences harm as a result of your negligence, they can hold you responsible in a court of law.
Judging property liability is tricky; true accidents really do exist, but in the vast majority of situations, negligence equals responsibility. Though it may surprise you, as a homeowner, accidents caused by situations like these fall on your shoulders, too.
Holes and Uneven Ground
Your neighbor decides to take a walk. It’s a beautiful day, and your property just happens to have a gorgeous field in the back. What the heck — they’re sure you won’t mind if they wander through as long as they’re respectful.
Halfway through their adventure they get their leg stuck in an animal hole. It causes them to fall and break their leg in three places.
If you answered, “the neighbor,” you’ll be surprised to know that this very often wrong. As a homeowner, you are responsible for keeping your property safe. Even if someone enters without permission, you can still be held liable if maintenance issues cause them to become injured while on your property. This is true for neighbors, friends, and yes — sometimes even criminals, too.
Altercations and/or Assaults
This is another situation that can be extremely confusing. If you own a home and throw a party, and someone at your party attacks another guest, you may be liable for any injuries they receive from the assault. Depending on the state you live in, you can be fully or only partially liable. Some state legislation systems view the homeowner as responsible for ensuring overall safety, including safety from other individuals.
If the person who is assaulted can prove that you allowed someone to attend your party who has a known history of aggression, violence, or crime, then he or she could feasibly suggest that you failed in your duty to keep a safe property.
Falling Trees that Cause Damage
There’s nothing quite as disappointing as coming home after a windstorm to find your treasured, 100-year-old willow tree toppled over. If it fell on the neighbor’s house, the situation just might be worse: you’re responsible for any damage the tree causes within very specific parameters.
Generally, trees fall under specific rules that rely on the property line. If a limb hangs over your neighbor’s property, for example, they have the right to cut the portion on their land. But they cannot touch the portion of the tree on your property because it’s your responsibility instead.
With regard to fallen trees, the rules change slightly, especially if your neighbor can prove the tree was a danger or you failed to address a risk factor before it fell. A broken limb left hanging, signs of infestation and rot, or even a partial break left unaddressed can all be enough reason to sue you for property damage compensation.
Any Damage Your Kids Cause
You have a friend over; they park in the driveway and head in for tea. As your children are playing outside, they accidentally toss a ball through the windshield. The resulting damage will cost nearly $1000 to fix. Are you responsible, or is the car owner’s insurance company responsible?
Truthfully, you are responsible for any damage your kids cause to visitors while on your property. If your kids damage a windshield, it falls under your homeowner’s insurance and may or may not be covered. All that remains is determining whether it was malicious or a true accident.
Sidewalks Kept in Disrepair
Think safe sidewalks are up to the city? Depending on where you live, you may be wrong. Many jurisdictions hold homeowners responsible for falls and accidents caused by uneven sidewalks, especially if the problem exists on the homeowner side rather than the street side. Chunks of missing sidewalk, cracks, holes, and uneven ground can cause people to break ankles, fall, or even experience head injuries. If they decide to sue you, you could become liable for their medical bills and lost time at work.
So what can you do about sidewalk issues? If you have an issue, put up a brightly colored sign warning passers-by of the issue. This won’t make you invincible, but it will reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring. You can report the issue to the city or fix it on your own, but either way, you must keep your sidewalks in safe condition.
You can protect yourself from weird and unusual liability issues like these with one easy step: taking out the right insurance plan to fit your needs. Having insurance isn’t just an option, it’s critical to your safety and financial security. You can’t predict the future, but you can provide yourself with a cushion that softens the blow.