Visitor Question

Will friend’s homeowner’s insurance cover my injury caused by his lawn mower?

Submitted By: Mike (Buffalo, New York)

My friend asked me to use his mower to cut his lawn while he was out of town. While I was cutting his grass, the mower clogged.

When trying to clear the grass clog, I let go of the handle bar which is supposed to disengage the blade. I reached down to clear the grass discharge chute, however the blades were still spinning.

I suffered lacerations and fractures to 2 fingers.  I went to the emergency department to get stitches and pain medication. I haven’t seen the specialist yet, so I don’t know exactly the extent of the injury.

I tested the lawnmower afterward, and it is working properly. But, when my injury happened, releasing the handle did not disengage the blade.

How can I prove that this happened due to equipment malfunctioning? Is my wife’s testimony going to be taken into account since she saw it happen?

Even if I can prove it, does this look like something that would be covered under homeowner’s insurance? Will homeowner’s insurance cover my medical bills, pain, suffering, lost wages, loss of sensation in fingers and so on?

Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your questions and we are sorry to hear about your injury.

Most homeowner’s insurance policies include personal liability coverage for the homeowner and his family members. That liability insurance coverage applies to claims related to bodily injury that guests may suffer while on the homeowner’s property. That coverage, however, may require negligence on the part of the homeowner.

Based on the facts that you presented, it’s not clear whether your friend was negligent in asking you to mow his lawn.

If, for example, your friend knew that his lawnmower was prone to malfunction in the way you described, then your friend may have been negligent in failing to warn you of that particular malfunction. On the other hand, if this was the first time the mower malfunctioned in this way, then your friend likely was not negligent in asking you to mow the lawn.

Another issue you may face in pursuing a claim against your friend’s homeowner’s insurance coverage is that New York is a pure comparative negligence state.

What that means is that if your actions contributed in part to causing your injury, then your recovery can be reduced by your percentage of fault. If a case goes to trial, a jury is asked to determine the percentage of fault of both the injured party and the defendant.

In addition to personal liability protection, many homeowner’s insurance policies provide what’s called “med pay.” Med pay is simply insurance coverage for medical expenses incurred by someone who is injured on the homeowner’s property. If your friend’s policy has med pay, that may provide you an avenue for recovery of some of your medical expenses.

There’s one other thing you may want to consider. If the lawnmower malfunctioned, you may have a product liability claim against the manufacturer and/or distributor of the lawnmower.

A full assessment of a potential product liability claim under New York law is beyond the scope of this answer, but an experienced personal injury attorney can provide you with guidance and advice on both your potential claim against your friend as well as a potential product liability claim.

Learn more here: Establishing Property Owner Liability

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

Best of luck with your claim,

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