What You Should Know About Renters Liability Claims
Here are a few statistics to consider regarding renters liability claims that might happen in your apartment or rental home:
- In 2011, the average cost of dog-bite claims was $29,396
- On average, the cost of slip-and-fall accidents exceeds $12,000
- The cost of legal defense in a slip-and-fall lawsuit is $50,000
As you can see, costs associated with seemingly minor accidents around apartments and rental homes can come with a very high price tag. Having insurance coverage in place will protect you from shouldering the cost of medical expenses or legal fees completely out of pocket.
Why Would I Need Renters Liability Insurance?
As a renter, you could be held responsible for injuries to your guests. What kinds of injuries, you might ask? In our litigious society, any number of things could potentially cause a lawsuit, from accidentally scalding someone with hot coffee, to leaving a pair of shoes on your stairwell that trips a guest on her way downstairs. Claims are filed annually for everything from serving alcohol to someone who later causes a car accident to severe dog bites.
Dog bites, in fact, account for about a third of home liability claims. Fortunately, renters liability insurance typically covers dog bites but always check our policy to be sure, and may be built into your renters policy – if you have one. Some renters insurance policies will charge higher premiums to owners of dogs classified broadly as “dangerous breeds.” You’ll want to check to see what your insurer defines as a dangerous breed of dog – different insurers vary on this.
Many landlords do not allow their tenants to have pets. If you own a dog, regardless of whether or not a pet is permitted in the lease, you can be held liable for medical and punitive costs if your dog happens to bite someone. If your dog destroys doors, screens and other property belonging to the rental property, you will typically be held liable for that damage as well.
What if someone slips and falls and is injured in your apartment? Nationwide, slip and fall injuries happen to approximately 25,000 people every day. While many of these falls cause only minor injuries, they have the potential to require extensive medical treatment if they result in trauma to the head, neck or spine. If you can be found in any way accountable, you may be liable for these medical costs.
Finally, you can be held liable for any property damage in your home that goes beyond normal wear and tear. This means that if you accidently cause a fire or cause water damage, you will be responsible for paying all associated repair and replacement costs. This includes covering property damage in neighboring units if the damage spreads beyond your rental home.
Renters liability insurance will cover the costs of liability claims from libel or slander, as well as the costs of injuries, property damage repair costs, and your legal defense, up to the limits set on your policy. The main reason to buy renters liability insurance, therefore, is to protect your assets and savings in the event that someone files a claim against you.
Won’t My Landlord be Responsible for these Charges?
Many tenants believe that their landlord’s insurance will cover the costs of liability claims and lawsuits, but this is not always the case. Landlords are only held responsible if the injury or property damage resulted from their failure to properly maintain their property.
For example, if a guest falls on your wet kitchen floor, you may be held liable, whereas if someone falls down the stairs because of a loose footboard that your landlord has failed to repair, your landlord will most likely be held responsible. While those who live in apartments are generally not responsible for keeping outdoor walkways clean and clear, renters in single-family dwellings often are. Check your lease if you are unsure where the responsibility lies.
If My Visitor Is Injured, Won’t Their Medical Insurance Cover It?
A visitor’s health insurance may cover the costs of medical expenses after an injury in your rental home, or they may not. If a guest injured in your home is uninsured, or if that person’s health insurance co-pays and deductibles are very high, you may be required to cover their out-of-pocket costs.
If the injured guest subsequently has unpaid days off work as a result of the injury, you may be responsible for restitution for lost wages. Finally, if the injuries are severe and the injured party can prove willful negligence on your part, you may be responsible for punitive damages as well. In each of these cases, your rental liability insurance can cover some or all of these costs.
Will Renters Liability Insurance Cover My Legal Fees?
Nearly all renters liability policies include compensation for court costs and legal fees associated with a liability lawsuit. Your renters liability insurance may not cover you if you willfully cause injury or damage. Be sure to check the details of the policy or ask an agent for clarification to fully understand what your coverage includes.
What If I Don’t Have Any Assets to Protect?
Many people who have not built up significant personal wealth feel that liability insurance is unnecessary. It is important to know, however, that in a serious legal claim, attorneys can go after assets you do not have. For example, even if you have to file for bankruptcy, you may still be required to pay restitution. If you are sued and don’t have the protection of liability coverage, your credit can be ruined, and your wages could be garnished for years to come. Renters insurance is a very inexpensive way to prevent such a possibility.
What if My Liability Coverage Isn’t High Enough?
If your court costs, legal fees and a judgment against you exceed the coverage offered by your renters liability insurance policy, you will be responsible for paying the excess costs out of pocket. This is possible if a severe injury to a guest in your apartment requires extensive and ongoing medical treatment.
While some insurance companies only offer liability coverage in the amount of $100,000, others may offer you the option to purchase coverage as high as $300,000. Most insurance professionals recommend purchasing the highest level of liability insurance offered. It will not cost you significantly more money but will provide you with much more protection.
You also have the option to buy a personal umbrella insurance policy. This kind of policy kicks in when your main insurance policies – for example, renters and auto insurance – exceed the maximum coverage. You are then protected to a much higher degree.
Make an Informed Decision on Your Renters Liability Insurance
An independent agent in the Trusted Choice network like Suzanne Brown Insurance Agency can help explain umbrella insurance and renters insurance liability coverage in greater detail. We can provide you with several different renters insurance policy options and clarify the differences and similarities of the liability coverage offered by each.
Having an agent working for you will help you make an informed choice. We are here to help you learn more about renters liability insurance.