Is homeowners insurance responsible for negligence at Uncle's property?

by Stefanie
(Saint Peters, MO)

I was at my uncle's house for a birthday party (3 hours away from our house) and he made a homemade zip line that he attached a swing, so that you could sit on it and hold the smaller children. I was told that a professional looked at it (only to find out that a professional looked at it AFTER it came apart while I was on it).

I was going down the zip line holding an 80 pound child on my lap when it came apart. I fell about 8 feet down onto my tailbone and broke the fall for the little girl, who was not injured.

I was rushed to the emergency room where I was informed I had a compression fracture to my t12 vertebra, my l2 and l3 disks were protruding and my l5 disk is protruding on my s1 nerve root.

Can I go after homeowner's insurance for pain and suffering, and be reimbursed for my time out of the office, co-pays, etc? What is the best course of action in a situation like this? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Is homeowners insurance responsible for negligence at Uncle's property?":

Stefanie (Saint Peters, MO):

You really don't have to “go after” your uncle’s homeowners insurance company. Instead, your best course of action is to file an injury claim with the company. Ask your uncle for the name, policy number, and contact information for his homeowners insurance company. At the same time, be sure to continue treatment for your injuries.

Under the circumstances, it appears the homeowner (your uncle) was negligent. Moreover, the accident occurred on his property. That is the property covered under his homeowners insurance. As a result of his negligence, your uncle should be liable for your damages up to the amount of your uncle's policy limits.

Here's an in-depth look at everything you can claim for damages.

Once you contact the insurance company, a claims adjuster will be assigned to your claim. The adjuster will want you to forward your medical bills, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses (such as medications, crutches, bandages, etc.), and a letter from your employer verifying your lost wages to date.

Contact witnesses to the accident. They can be neighbors, family members, or anyone else who may have seen you and your child fall from the zip line. Ask them to write down what they saw. Also ask for their contact information. Tell them the insurance company claims adjuster may be contacting them to ask what they saw and heard.

Your injuries are serious. Injury claims like yours almost always require legal representation. There is just too much to lose in serious injury claims for a witness to attempt to represent him or herself. Insurance companies know that without an attorney, you have little leverage.

While you may think you are negotiating a fair settlement, the insurance company is really settling the claim for well below what it is worth. Moreover, the company knows if you don’t agree to settle, there is little or nothing you can do. While they won’t admit it, what the adjuster is really saying is “Take it or leave it.”

In serious injury claims, experienced personal injury attorneys almost always settle claims for much more than the victim could him or herself. Unlike “Pro se” victims who have little or no leverage, attorneys have substantial leverage.

They can file lawsuits, hire expert medical witnesses, subpoena insurance company documents, engage in pretrial discovery, including depositions, interrogatories and requests for production, and more, all in an effort to make the insurance company settle for what the claim is really worth, and not just what the company would be happy paying.

You'd be well-served to gather copies of all your medical and therapy records and visit with several personal injury attorneys in your area. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation. After visiting with several attorneys you will have a much better idea of the viability of your claim and the approximate amount it may settle for.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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