Someone got injured on my property – now what?

By Athenkosi Sawutana

Life is unpredictable and no matter how careful we are, accidents happen. But what if someone has an accident while visiting your house? Your guest could fall off the stairs, slip on the floor or get bitten by your dog.

JustMoney got in touch with insurance experts to help you answer the question.

Tip: Get a home insurance quote by clicking here.

“Every homeowner has a reasonable duty of care to provide to all guests who enter their property,” says Christelle Colman, insurance expert at Old Mutual Insure.

If a homeowner breaches this duty of care and is negligent towards a guest and the guest is injured, the guest is entitled to sue for any injuries incurred.  This is when you would need personal liability insurance.

In a nutshell, personal liability insurance is to cover your legal liability for any accidental death, bodily injury or illness of another person, or for accidental loss of or damage to property belonging to another person.

“In South Africa we’ve found that our policyholders are becoming generally more aware of their legal rights and the frequency and size of claims are increasing steadily,” says Colman.

This insurance cover is typically embedded in your homeowners or household contents insurance or appears as a separate class on your personal insurance policy.  As a rule, personal liability insurance can’t be purchased on a stand-alone basis.

READ MORE: How home renovations affect your insurance.

What to do when someone is injured on your property

The golden rule is never to admit liability. This may very well compromise the success of your claim with your insurer as it’s expressly prohibited, says Colman.

  • Seek medical attention immediately. The well-being of your guests should always be your first priority so take all the necessary steps to ensure no further aggravation of the incident.
  • Take photographs. We live in an age of digital ease – always take photographs to substantiate your claim if possible.
  • Gather and preserve other relevant information or evidence. Get the names and contact information of any person who may have witnessed the incident or who can describe the conditions of the floor, lighting, security, or any other conditions at the time of the incident that may have contributed to the injury.

Wynand van Vuuren, spokesperson for King Price adds that you should also be precise about the time and location where the incident took place.

What is not covered by personal liability cover?

Typically, the liability coverage provided on your standard policy can be complicated. When in doubt, always ask your insurer or broker for a more detailed explanation, says Colman.

For example, liability arising out of a home business can be complex and in many circumstances these risks will be excluded. If you operate a home business you need to advise your insurer or broker to make sure you have the right protection in place. It might not only impact your liability but your personal property as well. Often coverage can be added at a nominal extra premium charge depending on the type of business you operate from home.

Other things are clearly excluded from your liability coverage, such as the liability for motor vehicles that require registration and licensing to operate on roads. Therefore cars require vehicle insurance cover and aren’t insured under home content policies.

How do you claim personal liability cover?

Each insurer has rules that dictate the claims process, so contact your insurance company to determine the correct claims procedure. In general, you should take these steps to file an insurance claim:

  • Call your broker or insurer, whether you’re at fault or not. 
  • Follow the directions your broker or insurer gives you to provide all documentation related to the accident and file your claim. You may need a police report.
  • Keep copies of all your documentation and invoices related to the accident. Jot down detailed notes following conversations about the accident. You need to know who you spoke with and what they said, at what date and time, and how to contact the person. 

The third party will approach you with the liability claim against you, this can be sent through to your insurer who will deal with the situation on your behalf, says Van Vuuren.

Make sure that you’re covered when unfortunate and unexpected events happen. Get a home insurance quote here.

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