Hazards of Homeowners Insurance

If your neighbor injures herself while taking a dive into your pool, will your Florida homeowners’ insurance cover the incident? What if your overly enthusiastic Rottweiler puppy nips at the mail carrier? Or suppose your son’s classmate gets injured while jumping on your trampoline. Is that covered?

It may surprise you that the answer is likely to be “no” to all the above. Your Florida homeowners’ insurance liability protection – designed to protect you against financial fallout if non-family members suffer injury, death or loss while in your home or on your property — may include some significant exclusions and limitations.

The reason is that insurance companies statistically measure the amount of risk involved in different types of activities and situations and determine what – and what not – to cover. Here’s where it gets interesting: most Florida homeowners insurance policies will cover you if a plane or automobile crashes into your living room but they will likely not cover you for injuries suffered from swimming pool diving boards and slides.

The likelihood of filing a claim for a swimming pool accident or injury is obviously greater than filing a more exotic claim. The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly 300 people drown in backyard pools and almost 43,000 people are injured in and around the swimming pool. So great is the risk of death or injury that some Florida home insurance companies won’t even write a policy if your pool has a diving board or slide.

Trampolines have also become what are known as an “attractive nuisance”; attractive to guests entering your property but a “nuisance” should any physical harm come to those using it. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), trampolines are responsible for an average of $300 million a year in insurance, legal and medical costs in this country. As a result, Florida homeowners’ policies often refuse coverage unless the trampoline is taken down or locked behind a padlocked fence or may require a higher premium for taking on the added risk. An on-premise trampoline can make your home ineligible for coverage with some Florida homeowners’ carriers.

Everyday sports and recreation – skateboarding, pool diving and pool slides – may also be excluded. The National Safety Council (Sports Participation and Injuries, United States, 2010) reveals that skateboarding was the cause of 130,627 injuries treated in hospital emergency departments, particularly for the young (ages 5-24). Having this equipment in your yard may make you the coolest parent in the neighborhood, but at the same time, homeowners insurance companies are extremely cautious and it can certainly affect your homeowners’ insurance premiums.

Last but not least is the family pet – your loyal canine companion. Dog bites account for more than one-third of all homeowners’ liability claims, costing $413 million in 2010, according to the I.I.I. The average cost of dog bite claims was $26,166 in 2010, up nearly 37 percent in just seven years. As a result, many homeowners insurance carriers are limiting their exposure to such losses by singling out breeds with a history of litigation from dog bite incidents – such as Rottweilers, pit bulls, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Akitas – and charging more or excluding coverage entirely for animal liability.

So what do you do to help ensure your assets aren’t placed at risk? For one thing, you want to keep yourself informed and educated about what types of items are not covered through your Florida homeowners insurance. One obvious action is to not construct a skateboard ramp or diving board or pool slide to eliminate the problem entirely.

Another option is to increase your liability coverage. Most homeowner policies pay up to $100,000 each time someone makes a legitimate civil claim against you. You may wish to purchase higher liability coverage limits on your existing policy or purchase a stand-alone liability policy that is separate from your homeowner’s policy, called an “umbrella” liability policy. An “umbrella” policy will pay up to a predetermined amount – typically $1 million – for liability claims against you and your family.

Knowing what your Florida homeowners insurance includes and excludes is vital to being an informed homeowner. Your Florida insurance agent is the best resource for helping you quickly understand what to expect from your homeowners insurance policy.

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.