Does Homeowners’ Insurance Cover Accidents at a Private Residence in Maryland?
You might be aware that Maryland personal injury laws provide you with legal options when you are hurt in a store, restaurant, apartment complex, office building, parking lot, and many other public spaces you visit as a guest. However, you may not realize that liability could extend to injuries linked to accidents in private homes. According to statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there may be cause for concern. Every year, 97.9 million people seek medical care at US hospital emergency rooms for unintentional injuries, and these cases are not related to motor vehicle accidents like you might expect. Instead:
- The top reason for seeking emergency care is accidental falls, which injure 6.8 million people yearly.
- Being struck by or against an object falls into second place, at 2.25 million ER visits.
- Traffic accidents rank #5 in terms of nonfatal injuries, causing injuries to 1.7 million people annually.
- Aside from trips to the emergency department, another 24.8 million people pay a visit to a physicians’ office for accidental trauma.
When you separate out auto crashes, it is disturbing to know the risks you may encounter anywhere – even at the home of a friend, family member, or neighbor. Fortunately, many homeowners’ insurance policies do cover accidents on property. Though the coverage may vary, it is reassuring to know that you do have remedies.
Basis of Premises Liability
Claims related to accidents on property fall under the area of personal injury law called premises liability, which is based upon the concept of negligence. The term is synonymous with carelessness, but the legal meaning is more specific. You must prove four essential elements to recover compensation in a premises liability case:
- You need to show that the property owner had a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and free for those who are legally present.
- You must have evidence that the property owner or other party in control over the premises breached this legal duty of care.
- There must be a direct causal link between the breach of duty and the accident which caused your injuries, such that the incident would not have occurred but for the breach.
- You sustained physical, financial, and emotional losses because of being injured.
Common Types of Accidents on Property
To better understand how negligence works in a premises liability claim, some examples may be helpful.
Slip and Falls: These are among the most common accidents falling under the premises liability umbrella, as victims may:
- Slip on slick surfaces, puddles, icy entryways, snow-covered patios, and others;
- Trip over toys, lawn equipment, and landscaping debris; and,
- Fall due to loose handrails, unsafe balconies, or failing staircases.
Dog Bites and Animal Attacks: Property owners with dogs are required to use reasonable care to keep them under control, secured in a yard, and on a leash in public places. The failure to do so may constitute negligence. However, when dog owners knew or should have known that the animal was aggressive, they are held to a higher duty. This form of negligence is often termed the “one bite” rule because knowledge of prior aggression requires the owner to take extra precautions.
Swimming Pool Accidents and Drownings: Maryland law requires property owners to install a gate or other barrier around residential swimming pools, including any structure that contains more than 24 inches of water. A homeowner can be liable under the laws of premises liability for not doing so, as well as for such negligent misconduct as:
- Failing to make repairs to drain, pump, and filtration systems;
- Not taking action to address pool equipment recalls, which are announced frequently; and,
- Failure to fix broken ladders and slides.
Pitfalls in the Legal Process
Just as business owners carry insurance to protect their interests if someone is hurt on property, many homeowners have liability policies to cover accidents. There are a number of challenges you could encounter:
- Though you may expect filing a claim to be as simple as filling out some forms, insurers are notoriously stingy in approving payouts. They are for-profit businesses, and your claim can hit their bottom line. Insurance companies often may lowball counteroffers or deny claims entirely by contesting your proof of the four elements described above.
- You might need to pursue someone you know to recover compensation for your losses, potentially putting you in an uncomfortable position. Still, keep in mind the costs you incur for medical care and the income you might lose when you cannot work because of your injuries. Plus, receiving monetary damages through an insurance claim means your friend, relative, or neighbor is not paying out of pocket.
- Maryland follows the rule of contributory negligence, which focuses on the victim’s misconduct. If you were negligent in causing the accident in which you were injured, you cannot recover any compensation. For instance, you might be barred from obtaining monetary damages if you fell because you were intoxicated, provoked a dog, or disregarded a warning sign. Contributory negligence even applies to children if they are old enough to appreciate the risks of their actions.
Speak to a Premises Liability Lawyer for Free
If you or your child was hurt on private property, it is important to consider your legal remedies – even if that means you need to pursue someone you know for damages. For additional details on your right to compensation, please call us. We can set up a no-cost consultation at our offices in Baltimore or at another location that is convenient for you, to hear more about your story.