Homeowner Liability: Can an Injured Visitor Sue Me?

If you are a property owner, chances are you will have people over in one capacity or another.  Friends over for dinner, a plumber fixing your sink, or those d*mn kids on your lawn; what happens when someone is hurt on your property?

It may sound like a strange thing to worry about, but injuries around the home and in businesses occur more often than you might think.  Dangers around the home account for 20 million hospital visits per year in the U.S. 

What happens if a loose ceiling fan comes crashing down on a visitors head? A slip on a staircase with a loose railing? What if you are remodeling your bathroom and a friend gets hurt using it? If and when an injury occurs, are you liable?  The answer depends on the injury and the type of visitor who is injured.

3 Types of Visitors
1. Licensee
This is a person, such as a friend or relative, that has permission to enter your property. You have a duty to let them know of any hazards around your property such as a loose step.

2. Business Invitee
A person that comes onto your property for a commercial or business purpose. The aforementioned plumber, the cable guy, and any other contractor or vendor you have over to preform work all count as business invitees.  You have a higher degree of responsibility when it comes to a business invitee. You have a duty to actively inspect your home or property for hazards.  Instead of just warning about the loose step, you must actually repair it.

3. Trespasser
As a homeowner, you do not owe a trespasser any legal obligation regarding the condition of your property. It would be very difficult for a trespasser to maintain a premises liability case for any injuries suffered while trespassing on your property. One caveat — if you know that a trespasser is on your property, you may have a duty to exercise *ordinary care regarding the trespasser’s safety. Local law varies.

*Ordinary care is a standard (or reasonable) level of care that is expected of people in most situations.  Failure to exercise ordinary care – especially on your property – may result in negligence.

Will My Homeowner’s Insurance Cover a Slip and Fall or Premises Liability Claim?

Again, this depends on the situation.  Typically, most homeowner’s insurance plans have two separate parts of coverage: medical payment coverage and liability coverage.

Medical payment coverage: Medical payments coverage – also known as ‘med pay’ – pays an amount of the injured person’s medical bills specified by the homeowner’s insurance plan.  This coverage will kick in whether or not the homeowner was negligent. Most homeowner’s insurance plans have around $5,000 or $10,000 of med pay coverage, but this amount will absolutely vary from case to case.

Liability coverage: This is where the ‘failure to exercise reasonable care’ would come into play.  Liability coverage will only kick in if you- the homeowner – were found to be negligent.

If you have cut-rate insurance with low coverage for these types of accidents or the costs go significantly , you may find yourself on the hook and paying out of pocket for the difference.  So, fix those steps, secure that wall decor, and make your property safe for your guests.


Brian Beltz

With a degree in Mass Communications and Journalism, Brian brings over four years of experience writing for the legal industry to Dopplr.

One comment

  • What falls under ordinary care around my home? Is this something like shoveling the walkway up to my house, or my driveway in the winter? Also, does it apply inside my house or just outside? I try to take good care of my house, but want to be sure I am covering all of my bases. I don’t want to be hit with a negligence case.

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