Premises Liability vs. Personal Liability: Which Applies to You?

The nuances between these two types of insurance can make a big difference in your injury claim. Learn what they are and the types of claims covered by each type. 

To make sure you’re fully compensated for a personal injury, you’ll likely make a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. You need to file your claim with the insurance company that’s actually responsible for paying your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

At first, you might think this is an easy thing to figure out. But it can be more difficult than you realize. The insurer’s obligations can change based on the details of your accident.

In general, injuries caused by a hazardous condition on someone’s property are premises liability claims. Injuries caused by the actions of an individual are typically personal liability claims. The difference between the two types of liability, and what that means for your claim, can be complicated.

This article will take a look at the difference between premises liability vs. personal liability and how these policy coverages affect you, the injured party. We’ll also look at the types of claims that fit under each type of coverage and the different kinds of policies you can make claims against.

Finally, we’ll review some common insurance policy exclusions that can affect your claim value and the complexity of your case.

Premises Liability vs. Personal Liability

Man falling down a spiral staircase

“Premises liability” and “personal liability” refer to two different kinds of injury claims. When making a personal injury claim against a property owner, take a careful look at the facts. Once you understand the situation, you can make the correct claim.

1. Premises Liability

A premises liability claim focuses on the location where you are injured.

Premises liability claims generally have two characteristics:

  1. The injury took place on the owner’s property.
  2. The injury resulted from a lack of reasonable care on the part of the property owner to make the property safe.

There are several different kinds of injuries that fit this basic fact pattern. A slip and fall accident on a broken floor, a dog bite, or a falling light fixture could all give rise to a premises liability claim.

In each case, you would have to show that the property owner did not take reasonable precautions to make the property safe. You’d also have to show that failure caused your injury.

2. Personal Liability

A personal liability claim focuses on the individual who hurt you rather than the place where it happened. In other words, a personal liability injury doesn’t need to occur at a certain property. Nor does it need to be due to the lack of reasonable care in making a property safe.

As such, there are more possibilities for personal liability insurance coverage. Those claims aren’t limited to bodily injury.

For example, let’s say someone is in a neighborhood park and throws a football. They throw too hard and lose control of the ball. The ball then flies into your partially open driver’s side window as you drive by the park.

The ball breaks the half-open window and barrels into the car. It hits you in the face. It breaks your nose and you lose control of the car. Your car runs off the road. You suffer a head injury in the crash.

In this case, your injuries and car damage should be covered by the weekend quarterback’s personal liability coverage, if the person is insured.

Where to Find Policies With Coverage

Black pen over a home property insurance policy

Once you’ve established what kind of insurance coverage applies, you need to find the correct policies with that coverage. If the responsible party is a property owner, look first at the insurance policy of the homeowner or business to check coverage.

Many policies will cover both premises liability and personal liability incidents. The language of different policies will vary. Keep in mind that no policy covers everything.

Although personal liability claims are usually more expensive than premises liability claims, personal liability coverage is often included because it doesn’t cost very much.

If the person responsible for your injury isn’t a homeowner, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Renters insurance policies generally contain personal liability coverage. Depending on your injury, a landlord’s insurance policy may also be available to you.

For large claims, some people may have umbrella policies that apply above and beyond original policy limits.

That may seem like a lot of places to look. But it’s important to research available insurance coverage early and thoroughly. The costs of not doing so can be high — a mistake may even cost you your entire claim.

The at-fault party might not be willing to volunteer complete coverage information. An experienced attorney will be more successful at locating insurance coverage from all sources.

Exclusions: When a Policy Doesn’t Apply

Frustrated woman holding her head in her hand while reading a letter

Just like with auto insurance or any other policy, any homeowners insurance policy coverage will be subject to exclusions.

According to the International Risk Management Institute, an exclusion is a predetermined situation where an insurance policy does not provide coverage. Exclusions are in the language of individual policies and will differ from case to case.

Generally speaking, though, there are a few personal injury cases where insurance policies will not apply. Homeowner policies, for example, usually don’t insure against injuries to family members.

Similarly, personal liability coverage doesn’t extend to acts of people who are not a member of the policy owner’s household. Nor do most policies cover intentional wrongful or criminal acts. This makes sense because insurance companies are protecting against unforeseen incidents. They are not guaranteeing an insured person’s good behavior.

When you or your personal injury attorney are reviewing insurance policies, it’s crucial to know the facts.

It will be particularly important to review any and all medical bills, treatment records, police reports, and other information. This will help you have a complete factual picture for the insurance company. It can also help avoid an unwarranted denial.

Get the Facts and Get Ahead

Insurance coverage is a complicated and technical subject. It also leaves very little room for error. A mistaken fact or misread policy term can make the difference between a successful claim and an uncompensated injury. Injured people should therefore take every precaution to ensure they pursue the correct claims at the right time.

The insurance company may say your injury isn’t covered. Don’t accept a claim denial before consulting a personal injury attorney. The policy language may be subject to interpretation.

A good injury lawyer can be an invaluable resource in looking at the policy information and facts, even before a demand letter goes out or a lawsuit is filed.

If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury, contact a qualified attorney in your state for a free consultation and case evaluation.

Matthew Carter, Esq. has been a licensed attorney since 2004. He’s admitted to practice law in California and Nevada, where he was awarded the Martindale.com rating of AV – Preeminent. Matthew has successfully handled a variety of personal injury and wrongful death cases, as well as trials, appeals, and evidentiary hearings throughout state and federal... Read More >>