Homeownership can be complicated, but we also think it’s one of the most rewarding ventures out there. In our series, Ask an Edina Realty Lawyer, we are hoping to demystify some of the trickier aspects of buying, selling and owning a home.
In this edition, one of our lawyers discusses the liability that homeowners have when someone gets injured on their property.
Dear Edina Realty Legal,
My kids are begging for a fun backyard feature, like a pool or a trampoline. I’m worried about liability, should someone get injured while playing at our house. What should I know about injuries that are sustained on my property and how can I be sure to secure the right insurance?
There is the possibility of liability to you, the homeowner, if someone gets injured on your property. It is important that you take precautions to eliminate potential hazards in your home and yard, and to secure proper insurance coverage.
How can I minimize commonplace dangers on my property?
Ensure a safe path to the front door
Even if you don’t invite guests over, you likely have mail carriers or delivery service drivers coming into your yard most days of the week. Be sure that all paths to your front door are safe for visitors so they’re less likely to get injured. Keep walkways clear year round. In the warmer months, watch for toys and garden tools left on paths, and in the colder months, be sure to shovel your walkways and use salt or ice melt in slippery areas.
Eliminate (or illuminate) dangers in your yard
Watch out for any other potentially dangerous conditions on your property and, if you can’t eliminate the dangers altogether, make sure that other people visiting your property are aware of them. For example, while you may know of a hole in your yard, your children’s friends might not. Add stakes or other warning signals to the area, and tell all visitors what they need to watch out for. Well-lit pathways also help protect you and your home. Not only will this shine a light on any potential tripping hazards, good exterior lighting might also deter criminals from targeting your property.
Exercise extra caution with pools and trampolines
Trampolines and swimming pools are fun, but can also be sources of legal liability if accidents occur. Add gates or fencing around your pool, and netting around your trampoline. Plus, establish strict ground rules that kids aren’t allowed to play without a parent present.
Minimize your dog’s contact to new people
Last, be sure to maintain control of your dog at all times when you have visitors. If you know your pooch can’t handle new folks, consider kenneling them or placing them outside for the duration of the visit. When introducing a dog to a new person, be sure to exercise caution. Even the friendliest dogs who are around children all day long can have triggers that set them off. Remember that it may seem like overkill but if your dog bites a guest, you are likely to be held responsible. With limited exceptions, a dog owner is generally found liable for dog bites.
Does my homeowner’s insurance cover accidents on my property?
Much of your potential liability is likely covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. But that policy has dollar limits. If you have significant assets or regular traffic to your home, you might want to consider buying an umbrella policy that can provide increased coverage. Edina Realty Insurance can help you assess your assets and need for such a policy.
The Edina Realty Legal Department serves as in-house counsel for Edina Realty and does not represent private clients. This insight is not intended to provide legal advice.
Edina Realty Insurance is an affiliate of Edina Realty. See Affiliated Business Arrangement Disclosure Statement.