Family member Injured while building a deck

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Nov 28, 2011

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Insurance Question from Gray, TN

Asked on 11/28/2011

Family member Injured while building a deck I live in Northeast Tennessee and my father-in-law was helping me put in a French door. Because of the door location, a 10ft railing had to be temporarily removed. While taking the trim off the old doorframe, as he grabbed and pulled some molding he lost his balance and fell off the side of the deck. As a result of his fall, he cracked some rib and was off work for a month. I feel bad, but am I or my homeowners insurance liable for anything?

Answer given on November 29, 2011

This is an unfortunately situation.  Your home insurance policy does have medical payments coverage.  Take out your declarations page of your home insurance policy.  Review the limits under “medical payment to others” for each person and the limits for each occurrence.  This is a no fault insurance, meaning it will pay regardless of fault. There may be some money there to help your father-in-law pay for his medical bills.  In order for your personal liability insurance to pay, your father-in-law would have to submit a claim to your insurance company. For there to be coverage under this section of your policy, it would have to be proven that there was negligence on your part–perhaps not securing the door way.  This will not only pay for his medical bills but he could be reimbursed for his lost wages.  Both coverages do not incur a deductible. 

Before you actually go the route of having him file a claim under your homeowner’s personal liability coverage add up his actually cost of being out of work and medical bills.  Loosing your claim free status could increase your homeowners insurance for several years to come or worst, get you cancelled.  This claim history will also follow you for about 3-5 years if you were to change homeowner’s insurance.

Once you add up his cost of being out of work, it may be cheaper to help him out at home (maybe take over a couple of bills to alleviate the financial burden, pay any amount not paid by his health carrier out of your pocket).  If you find that his total out of pocket cost is under $2000, it might be easier to go this route than to incur this amount over the next three years in increased homeowner’s insurance premiums.  Weigh your options carefully.    


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