Broken Steps, Pools, and Other Common Homeowner Liability Dangers that You Need to Know



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Owing a home is part of the American dream but if you're not careful it can become a nightmare. Identifying sources of lawsuits, and taking steps to avoid them can lower your risk of becoming a liability casualty and keep yourself a happy homeowner. Being a homeowner comes with many perks, not the least of which is the freedom of having your own “castle.” However, it also comes with certain responsibilities, since you may be held liable for incidents that occur on your property.

There are some types of incidents that are more common and which homeowners should particularly note. By identifying these sources of lawsuits, and taking steps to avoid them, you can lower your risk of becoming a liability casualty and keep yourself a happy homeowner.

Five common liability dangers that every homeowner needs to pay attention to are:

1. House repairs – Every homeowner knows it’s important to keep up with house maintenance, but this responsibility can have a much bigger impact than aesthetic issues. If you fail to fix a broken step or other dangerous issue despite knowing about it, and someone injures themselves because of it, then you could be held liable for the costs of that injury.

2. Pools – Pools are great for summer fun and entertaining, but it’s also important to ensure they’re used and maintained safely, and that doesn’t just mean skimming the leaves out. Make sure to supervise swimmers, even adults ones and especially if they’ve had alcohol. A sturdy fence with a latched or locked gate is also essential for keeping curious kids and pets safely away from the water.

3. Pets – Dog bites are a top homeowners liability concern, and for good reason. Even the friendliest Fidos can have bad days, and it’s important to take proper precautions to avoid accidents, especially if your pet doesn’t know your guests very well or there are children around. Keeping your pet in a separate part of the house during parties and using a muzzle are two popular methods of lowering risk.

4. Snow and ice – Slippery steps aren’t just a nuisance when you’re trying to bring in groceries; they can also lead to lawsuits. Homeowners are should maintain a safe environment, and that includes clearing snow, ice, and other potential hazards. If you’ve just had a blizzard, then of course your property will have snow, but if someone slips and falls on the ice because you haven’t cleared walkways after a while, then they may be able to hold you financially liable.

5. Lighting – Poor lighting can be another cause of accidents. Changing a burned-out light bulb is an easy way to ensure people have enough light to walk safely at night and may end up saving you a lot of time and stress in the long run. Adding outdoor lighting along walkways, if financially feasible, helps mitigate this issue and also can beautify your home, but even something as simple as keeping the porch light on makes a difference.

Although these five areas of liability are important, there are many more issues that homeowners should know about. If you want to learn more or want to get coverage to protect yourself against possible lawsuits relating to homeowners liability, contact an experienced attorney or an insurance agent.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mario F. Cattabiani
Mario Cattabiani is the Director of Communications at Ross Feller Casey, LLP in Philadelphia, PA.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.