One of the most valuable – and overlooked – benefits of homeowners and renter insurance is liability coverage. It protects you if someone gets hurt on your property or you accidentally damage someone else's property. It can even pay your legal defense costs if you're sued.
"Who, me?" you may think. "I'll never get sued." And you wouldn't be alone. Rarely do homeowners see it coming. Here are the top five reasons homeowners get sued – and almost everyone's surprised by No. 1:
Dog bites About one-third of all homeowner's liability claims arise from dog bites, with an average payout of $37,051 in 2017 (the latest data we have available from the Insurance Information Institute). That year alone, claims for dog bites increased by 2.2% and costs jumped 11%. Children, by far, are the most frequent victims, followed by the elderly. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers these tips to prevent dog bites.
Slip-and-falls Your just-mopped tile floor. Icy front steps. Accent rugs. That open dishwasher door. All can lead to serious falls and, potentially, an injured guest who may feel that the accident could have been prevented if only you'd have taken care of the problem or at least warned them.
Falling trees If you know or should know that a tree is rotten, diseased or dying, you're obligated to remove it as a potential hazard. If you don't and it crashes onto a neighbor's house or car, you could be held responsible. (Healthy trees that fall with no warning, like during a windstorm, are an exception.)
Drunken guests Washington and Oregon have different laws about serving alcohol in your home. Depending on circumstances, though, you could have liability concerns in either state, particularly if underage drinking is involved.
Injured workers Whether or not workers in your home (housekeepers, roof cleaners, etc.) are covered by workers' compensation insurance through their employers, you could be sued if they're injured on your property through what they believe is your negligence. That might include common hazards like loose steps or a hole in the yard that you didn't repair.
Unsure how much liability protection you have? Log in to your PEMCO online account, call 800-GO-PEMCO, or talk with your local PEMCO agent. If you think your limits may be too low, get the details on umbrella protection – an extra $1 million or more, starting at around $200 a year.