New Year’s Resolution Series – Reduce Liability at Home
Every year millions of Americans start off the New Year with resolutions for self-improvement or life goals. However, a vast majority of them don’t last more than a few weeks. From us at Ron Bell Injury Lawyers, we hope that our readers will take up these resolutions and succeed in them.
The first three blogs in this series have covered:
Concluding this series is a checklist that homeowners can take up to reduce or eliminate liability at home.
Resolve to Reduce Liability at Home
Home is where most people keep their most cherished possessions and they go to great lengths to protect it – locks, security systems, dogs, etc. However, the same level of care for protection against liability is not as common. Aside from incidents that can lead to insurance claims (see our blog series on being prepared for natural disasters), liability can really wreak havoc on the wallet and even open a homeowner up to litigation.
Fortunately, just a simple checklist can save headaches and money. With the New Year only two months behind us, it’s a good time to double-check the home.
The Top 10 Factors That Influence Home Insurance Rates
Home insurance rates and the liabilities associated with that home go hand-in-hand. There is a reason why rates go up or down depending on the presence of a certain dog breed on the property or the presence of a swimming pool. When things go wrong, the insurance company has to pay out.
Consider this list of key factors from Insurance.com
- Breed of dogs on the property
- Wood burning stoves
- Home-based businesses
- Age of home
- Construction of home
- Swimming pool or hot tub
- Nearby body of water
- Roof condition
- Claims history
Let’s take a look at a few of these from a liability perspective.
Breed of Dogs on the Property
The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and that over half of the injuries happen at home with dogs that the victim is familiar with. The I.I.I. estimates that nearly one-third (or $600 million) of all homeowners insurance liability claims dollars go toward dog bites and dog-related injuries.
New Mexico is one of the few U.S. States without a specific dog-bite liability statute, but that doesn’t mean that homeowners can’t be held liable for injuries that their dog causes. If a lawyer can prove that the dog owner knew that the dog was aggressive or that it had already bitten someone else, they could be held liable for injuries and damage. This only works, however, if the dog has been known to show aggression toward humans, it’s not enough if the dog has merely shown aggression to other animals.
Working from home can be great, but it can also open homeowners to liability if they regularly welcome people to their home-office. Be sure the office space – especially if it includes the use of machinery and tools – is well maintained. Debris such as wood, nails or metal should be cleaned up from the yard.
General premises liability concerns also apply so be sure to have a clearly marked path to the house, safely secured fixtures and furniture, as well as safe displays for the business (including signs), and keeping inventory properly stored.
Remodeling, Roof Condition and Home Construction
A “work in progress” is a good way for a homeowner to open himself up to liability for both property damage and injury. Should someone get hurt in that unfinished bathroom with the gaping hole, a ladder falls onto someone’s car, or even the state of the roof that causes water damage – the homeowner can be liable.
When in doubt, contact an insurance agent.
“Anytime you make a home improvement, you should talk to your insurance agent to be sure you’re covered and realizing any savings that may come along with the improvement,” says Allstate Spokesman Justin Herndon.
Swimming Pool or Hot Tub
For a more in-depth look, see our blog “Swimming Pool Safety”. However, the short answer, is that New Mexico requires homeowners to take special care to discourage children or anyone unauthorized from entering the swimming area without permission. This can include building a fence and a lock that latches from the inside.
Swimming pools fall under “attractive nuisance” laws, where a landowner has a legal obligation to either eliminate the danger or to make it inaccessible to trespassing children.
Nearby Body of Water
While not something that can be altered on an annual home liability checklist, be aware of whether your home is located in a flood zone. This is something you should be informed of before you ever decide to purchase a particular home.
“Flood damage is not covered by standard home insurance policies. You may want to purchase separate flood insurance even if your home isn’t considered a high-risk for flooding,” warns Insurance.com.
It comes back to the old adage “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Liability cases can be a blame game sometimes, which each party sharing part of the responsibility. However, if something happened in the past, there’s a good chance that it could happen again.
If someone has fallen on the property, nearly gotten hurt, or if there has been actual damage or injury, and the initial cause has still not been rectified, we recommend addressing the problem immediately for a safer and liability free 2018.