You set your mind to shopping for a home, find a property that is your dream house, secure a mortgage, sign the paperwork and move in. Wisely you purchase homeowner's insurance to cover your costs should an accident happen causing damage to your beautiful home or an injury to a person.
In the event of a fire, or flood or landslide or accident on your property, you feel confident you will be paid the value of whatever it takes to replace or rebuild what is damaged or your liability if sued. But unfortunately insurance companies do not always see it this way.
Homeowners' insurance policies do cover and pay for damage to your home caused by many disasters and destructive events. These events are called "perils." A standard policy will usually cover damage caused by a variety of perils including but not limited to: fire, lightning, explosion, damage caused by aircraft or vehicles, smoke, vandalism, theft, falling objects, ice or snow damage, accidental overflow from plumbing or sprinklers, and frozen pipes. If your home is hit by lightning and catches fire, the insurance company will pay you the amount of money you need to rebuild it to the condition it was before disaster struck.
Reasons Why Your Homeowners' Insurance Claim Might Be Denied
However, certain events or perils are often excluded from the standard policy, and certain other activities void a homeowners insurance policy - leaving a homeowner with no proceeds from insurance and bills to be paid out of pocket after disaster strikes.
And it's not just catastrophic events that may be excluded. You might think it would be fun for your kids and their friends to come over and use a trampoline or climb in a tree house, but such potentially dangerous objects may be flagged by your insurance company as exclusions. If someone is injured, you - and not the insurance company - may be on the hook to pay for the person's medical bills, pain and suffering.
You should check with your insurance company if you have a trampoline or tree house or are thinking of getting one. In the case of trampolines, the insurance company may allow coverage if you add a net enclosure, pads and a fence around your yard.
Tree house exclusions are not as common as exclusions for trampolines, but it's worth your time to check with the insurance company if you have one on your property.
Can Certain Dogs Affect an Insurance Claim?
If you own a dog that is listed on your policy as an "aggressive breed" - dogs that have a reputation for attacking and injuring people - it may be uninsurable under your homeowner's policy. Insurance companies know that some breeds of dogs have a higher chance of biting people and are associated with personal injury lawsuits more than others. And insurance companies do not want to be facing plaintiff's attorneys.
Most insurers have a list of "aggressive breeds" that often include the following: Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. There are other breeds that may raise red flags with insurance companies. If you own a dog that is more than 50% of one of the so called "aggressive breeds" and your dog causes harm, your insurance company may deny coverage for the claim. You should check your policy or talk with your agent if you have a dog.
Other Common Exclusions
Common exclusions in even the most comprehensive homeowners policies include: earth movement, such as earthquakes; sinkholes or landslides that damage your home; water damage, such as floods or sewer back-ups that leak through a pipe or seep through the foundation causing damage to your home; damage resulting from power failure; damages from neglect, meaning your failure to maintain your property to a reasonable level which devalued the property or created a risk to others; damages from war or nuclear hazard; and loss to property because of poor workmanship, bad repair, or defective maintenance. Should an earthquake crack your walls creating structural problems, or your home slides down a cliff in a mudslide - an exclusion of those risks in your policy means that you will have to pay for your repairs.
Some of these exclusions can be covered if a homeowner purchases additional insurance called a "rider." This is additional insurance that will cover a specified event, or repair to a particular feature of a house in the event of damage. One example of a rider is Flood Insurance. Flood Insurance can be purchased above and beyond the standard homeowner's insurance for an additional premium or fee. With Flood Insurance, the homeowner will be reimbursed for damage to items inside the house, and the house itself, should the house be damaged by flood.
What are situations that void a homeowner's insurance coverage for an occurrence that the homeowner expected would be covered?
The most important way to learn the answer to this question is to thoroughly and carefully read your specific policy. This is the best way to avoid surprise from lack of coverage when disaster strikes and your home is damaged. Your policy will spell out the situations that void your insurance coverage.
If you or someone you love was injured on someone's property, or was the victim of a dog bite, contact an attorney immediately. The Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone has experience in handling premises liability and dog bite claims and will deal with insurance companies on your behalf. Call today for a free consultation: 1-800-WIN-WIN-1.