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How does the insurance company help when a homeowner gets sued?

As we have discussed before, homeowners’ insurance is not just to pay for repairs after your house is damaged in certain kinds of ways. It may also help if someone is injured while on the property -- though not always.

Generally, a homeowners’ policy cover the owner’s legal liability when a visitor is injured on the property. Common causes of liability include an icy or uneven sidewalk, hidden holes in the ground and dog bites.

The fact that the insurance company is covering the homeowner means that the company must provide the homeowner a legal defense, if litigation arises. The company gets to select the lawyer, but remember that the lawyer represents the homeowner, NOT the insurer. However, usually the policy empowers the insurance company to settle a personal injury claim or defend it, based on its discretion.

Despite this coverage, some types of personal injury claims are not covered by the liability component of the policy. Though the insurance company is obligated to provide the homeowner a legal defense against any claim, it is generally not obligated to pay damages for certain claims. So if the case goes to trial and the plaintiff prevails, the insurance company might pay some of the damages, and leave the homeowner to pay the rest. For instance, intentional acts by the homeowner usually are not covered, so whether an action was intentional or not may be a big question at trial.

Insurance companies are businesses, and their primary goal is making money, not helping homeowners in trouble. Sometimes, they break their promises and leave customers in the lurch. But homeowners can stand up for their rights with the help of an attorney.

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