Will Your Policy Cover a Neighbor’s Lawsuit?

Will Your Policy Cover a Neighbor’s Lawsuit?

Not all of your neighbors are neighborly and sometimes disagreements can arise, from your barking dog to perhaps painting your home a color that’s not pleasing to some others living on your block.

And while you may be able to settle most of these issues through discussions and action, sometimes those complaints can escalate to lawsuits. Before this happens, it is important to know what types of provisions a homeowner’s policy offers for legal issues.

Homeowner’s insurance is really a package of protections. It covers damage to your own property, and it covers your liability, meaning legal responsibility, for injuries to others and damage to the property of others for which you become legally responsible. To an extent and under specified circumstances, the insurance provides coverage that applies to civil lawsuits.

Most individuals think that a homeowner’s policy will cover most lawsuits that are filed against them. But that’s not true.

Say for example, you tear down the fence and replace it with one with higher boards and colors not approved under the subdivision’s code. If the subdivision has rules about the permissible colors and acceptable maximum height of fences, it will try to get the new homeowner to comply.

Homeowners who refuse might find themselves facing a lawsuit for violating the code. The courts will likely favor the subdivision’s rules, and a homeowner’s policy will not provide coverage for defending against the lawsuit. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly what legal issues are covered under the policy.

That’s why if neighbors sue you for erecting eyesores in your front yard or making excessive noise, you will typically not be covered as the alleged issues do not physically harm other people or physically damage their property.

So what’s covered?

Under the personal liability portion of the standard homeowner’s policy, the insurance company will typically cover you and your family members against lawsuits in cases when you are sued for causing some physical damage, such as if your dog bites a neighbor or a guest falls on your porch steps due to faulty railing.

Personal Liability Insurance (Coverage E) is the section of a standard home insurance policy that protects you or covered family members against lawsuits. This type of insurance coverage would protect you in various situations where a suit is presented.

Standard home insurance policies will typically include a minimum of $100,000 for each liability claim occurrence. Some common exclusions of this policy include lawsuits involving the transmission of a communicable disease; mental, physical or sexual abuse; or anything involving the sale, manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance.

Some homeowners choose to take out an extension of this liability coverage if they feel they need to further protect themselves against liability lawsuits. One common reason for taking out such an extension would be if your home includes a swimming pool.

Another type of liability coverage is personal injury liability or an umbrella liability policy which protects the insured against lawsuits involving:

  • libel,
  • slander,
  • defamation of character,
  • false arrest,
  • detention,
  • imprisonment or malicious prosecution,
  • invasion of privacy
  • wrongful eviction, or
  • wrongful entry.

This policy can also cover liability protection for auto accidents with the minimum underlying auto limits. (Be sure to talk to your agent about this.)

Injuries covered too

The standard policy also includes another liability, portion medical payment coverage, which is also known as MedPay. This section will cover medical costs in the event that someone is injured on your property and does not want to sue you.

MedPay would cover injuries sustained on your property when a lawsuit is not present, such as the following examples:

A neighbor falls on your steps, hurts her back and does not want to sue.
A neighborhood child falls on your driveway, sprains his ankle and his family does not want to sue.
Your dog bites a friend, who does not want to sue.

Typical MedPay coverage will be $1,000 per injured person. Some homeowners choose to take out an extension of this coverage if they feel they need extra protection.

MedPay does not cover injuries sustained:

  • Due to the transmission of a communicable disease.
  • Because of physical/mental/sexual abuse.
  • Resulting from the sale, manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance.