Winter weather ushers in an increased risk for accidents, both at home and on the road. This season, protect your assets by understanding and safeguarding against the 5 most common winter liability claims (plus an additional holiday liability to watch out for).
Liability: if you are found at-fault for an incident to a third-party, and you are thus responsible for the costs and damages to their person or property
1. Slips and trips
Ice is one of the most common causes of winter accidents. From a broken ankle to dislodged shoulder, falling on ice can be a serious medical cost. While this is a concern for the health and safety of your own family, it’s equally as concerning for liability of your home.
If a third-party slips and falls on your property, they could sue you for any medical costs or damages they incur. This is true whether they were an invited party guest or an unwelcome solicitor. If someone is injured on your property, you are likely liable for the damages.
Slips and trips can be from icy walkways, uneven stairs, broken stones, cracked pathways, and poor lighting. Other liability can come from items falling on your property, like broken roof shingles, melting icicles, dead tree branches, and even a Santa decoration falling off your roof.
- Talk to an insurance agent about the line and limit of your homeowners’ personal liability insurance.
- Always shovel snow and scrape ice after a storm.
- Use anti-ice material on walkways and stairs to make them less slippery. This can include commercial-grade salt, sand, and even kitty litter.
- Install handrails on all outdoor stairways. In fact, many insurance companies won’t cover slips on stairs if you don’t have handrails.
- Inspect all interior and exterior lights. Replace any light bulbs if necessary. Turn on outdoor lights when expecting company.
2. Property damage
Falling trees and branches are more common in the wintertime with severe winds and heavy snow sits. If your tree or a tree branch falls on your neighbor’s property or house, you are responsible for any damages the fall incurs—both with regards to property damage and personal injury.
- Discuss your homeowners’ property damage liability with an agent to ensure you are fully covered against these sorts of “acts of God.”
- Remove all dead and low-hanging branches.
- Extricate dead trees.
- Trim back any branches hanging over your neighbor’s property line or along the road/sidewalk.
- Get the low down on downed trees here.
3. Stolen packages
You’re waiting for your gifts from Santa to arrive, but they never come. You call your shipping company, who say that they reported to have left the package at your doorstep. If you did not specify prior to shipping that you wanted to sign for the package personally, you are responsible for the loss of these goods.
In all likelihood, the package was stolen from your front porch. The same can be true of stolen holiday decorations and outdoor equipment.
Theft is more common during the holiday season, when thieves know that homeowners are out of the house more often for traveling, shopping, and partying. Unfortunately, that mean’s you’re out of money and still missing your gifts from Santa. But insurance can help.
- Immediately after purchasing, add expensive gift items to your homeowners’ contents coverage.
- When shipping packages to your home, always designate “sign for package” in the shipping instructions.
- Keep a few interior lights on to deter possible thieves.
- Keep all item receipts for possible claims and reimbursements.
4. Auto liability
Winter weather can cause severe collisions and liability on the road, especially with an influx of hectic holiday traffic. Snow or ice flying off of your car can also cause an accident for which you may be considered at fault.
- Talk to an agent to ensure you are fully covered with your auto insurance liability. This includes bodily injury liability coverage, property damage coverage, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
- Always remove snow and ice from all parts of your car before driving.
- Drive slowly and carefully.
- Consider taking a defensive driving course. This may also lower your auto insurance premium costs.
5. Business liability
If you’re a business owner, you have a responsibility to mitigate employment risks over the winter season. This is especially true if you have employees who are working outside and traveling or commuting during bad weather. Learn more about commercial insurance to protect your business and employees this season.
- Close the office and operations during severe weather. If employees have to come in for their job (like a hospital worker), ensure they have the emergency tools needed in their vehicles, like a snow scraper, blanket, first aid kit, and flashlight.
- Develop an emergency communication plan in case of office shut down or late arrivals.
- Require cold-weather trainings for outdoor workers.
- Ensure workers wear protective, warm clothing.
- Don’t allow workers to be outside during freezing temperatures, heavy wind, or precipitation.
- Keep all occupied buildings heated and insulated. Keep unoccupied buildings at 45 degrees minimum.
- Make arrangements with a snow removal company for your office and associated areas.
Bonus: Party liability
Did you know that if you serve booze at your party and someone drives home intoxicated, you could be found partially liable for any accidents they cause? This could put you on the serious hook for liability concerns. You are also liable if you someone gets too drunk and is injured on your property.
- Ensure you have an appropriate amount of homeowners’ liability insurance.
- Never let your guests drink and drive. Take their keys. Provide them a place to stay or call them a cab.
- Serve food when serving alcohol.
- Cut off guests who are getting too intoxicated.
- Never serve underage drinkers.
The Bottom Line
It’s never a bad idea to ensure you have all the necessary protection from winter liability claims. If you are found at-fault for an incident, you could be on the hook for exorbitant costs. Often, these personal injury and property damage costs can be so high that they could financially damage your entire line of assets.
Protect your wallet, your family, and your liability this winter. Request an InsuraMatch quote for home and a quote for auto to see how much you can save on your liability coverage! We can even help you bundle home and auto for additional savings on your plan.
Contact us now to get your liability questions answered.