Home Owners Liability Insurance Question

A fellow I know was on the roof of his girlfriend’s house.
He went up to paint her steel roof, and before he could secure his safety line, he fell off the roof, broke his back, and almost severed 3 of his fingers.

He is in hospital at present, and in rough shape.

His nephew told me today that he was going after his girlfriend’s insurance company, and according to his words, he thinks he will get a “nice big chunk of change”

My question is…


  1. Why would the insurance company have to pay for his mistake?
    We debated this very topic at a card game tonight, and everyone thinks he is correct to seek damages from the insurance company.

I was the only one who thinks he should get nothing.

It was always my understanding that home owners liability insurance was for accidents lie:

Say you are a guest at my house, and while we are sitting on the back deck, the deck collapses, and as a result, you break your back and now you are laid up.
I always thought this is what liability insurance was for.

The fellow I know fell off the roof because he was careless, why should / would the insurance company have to pay him for that?

I’d appreciate it if someone could fill me in and tell me how things work.

Thank you

Anyone? ttt

I read it earlier and have been musing it over. Your OP states that the guy fell “before he could secure his safety line”, which sounds like an accident. Yet you state later in the post that “The guy I know fell off the roof because he was careless…”. If he had a safety line up there and was trying to do his girlfriend a favor by painting her roof (and saving her a chunk 'o change in the process) I certainly don’t blame him for expecting her homeowners insurance to cover his injuries.

Even if he was careless he might recover from the insurance company, as I have read of trespassers who have injured themselves while tresspassing who sued the insurance company and won. We’ve had threads where homeowners were concerned about neighborhood children playing in the homeowners yard (without invitation or permission) because of liability issues.

I imagine a broken back is not going to be a cheap injury to recover from.

That is one of the reasons people get liability insurance - so if anything happens to someone, the homeowner won’t lose the house trying to fight a lawsuit.

And as I am personally not fond of insurance companies in general (but that’s another thread I’m sure no one is interested in) I hope the guy recovers at least enough to take care of his medical bills.

Well, I assume she asked him to do it. It all depends on the terms of the insurance policy, but I think most such policies cover all reasonable hazards faced by workmen and guests. It appears that he was going to hook up a safety line, but didn’t get the chance, so it’s not like he’s going to get dinged for contributory negligence. On the other hand, it doesn’t appear that he homeowner was negligent either (thought there are arguments to be made for it), so it’s not likely that the payoff is going to be exorbitant – just enough to cover medical expenses not already covered by his insurance – which is good. If she were negligent, the insurance company would go after her to recoup the expense.

IANAL, but I’ll venture a guess. To get a “nice big chunk of change” he’ll likely have to go to court and prove negligence which would determine whether or not there would be puntative damages. He might get his mdical bills covered, but if he has medical insurance his insurance will take most of that. Her homeowner’s company could very well contend that he was negligent and refuse to pay anything.
I once sued my GF (actually her insurance co.) after an auto accident in which she was driving, I had a lawyer and he negotiated a 10 grand settlement, of which he got a third.

Here’s what I know:

The guy is somewhat of a scammer to begin with, he’s not the type to use a safety line ever, but in this case he claims he was trying to secure a safety line when the accident took place.

He was doing the painting free of charge for his gf.

The thing I don’t understand is if there was no negligence by the home owner, why would the insurance pay him anything? This is the part my small and fragile brain has a hard time understanding.

I could see if when he was up on the roof, if the roof caved in, causing injuries after the fall, that I get.
An accident took place which was pretty much unavoidable, hence the liability insurance.

Suppose I visit a friends house and decide to dive into their pool from the roof because I’m drunk and stupid.
Suppose I hit the bottom of the pool head first like a missle and now I’m paralysed for life, I then could go after the insurance company to pay for my stupidity?

Is it not possible where something could happen where we don’t blame someone and just take the responsibility ourselves?

Does this mean that if I suffer a heart attack while having a pic-nic in the city owned park, that I can then sue the city for my medical bills?

Someone please help me understand.
Oh how I wish I were smarter than I am!


That is an issue that people have debated for years. Some people injure themselves and simply don’t have the resources to pay for medical care, so they go after the insurance company. Some people are simply out to get what they can for themselves and screw anyone else. And there are lots and lots of friendly lawyers to help you get your case into court.

I have been in two different situations where I could have sued someone for injuries I received on their property. I tripped over some floor molding on my way out of the local newspaper office, and being the clumsy person I am, I broke my foot. I could have sued the newspaper office, or I could have claimed the injury on worker’s comp as I was working when the incident occured. I did neither - fortunately, I had health insurance at the time and just handled it that way.

The other incident occured at my sister-in-laws cabin. I was going down a set ot wooden steps into the water (moving quickly to try to prevent one of the boat bumpers from going up under the dock). The bottom step was covered with slime and my foot went out from under me, landing me on my butt on the edge of the dry top step. If I had been alone I might have drowned, because I was simply paralyzed from the waist down for about 15 minutes. Fortunately my husband was there and kept my head out of the water. I had a massive hematoma at the site where I landed, and still have permanent structure change to the shape of my rear end. My doctor had to X-ray to make sure nothing was broken, and I ended up with several hundred dollars of medical bills I had to pay out of pocket because I no longer have health insurance. If there had been more serious damage done, I might have had to go after the homeowners insurance because we just didn’t have the money to pay out for a lot of medical bills. As it was we were able to cover it and nothing was said about insurance.

I’m sure the insurance company will try to show that the guy didn’t have a safety line - if they can show he increased his risk of being hurt it may cut down on the amount they have to pay. (I’m sure a practicing attorney will be glad to discuss the issue of “Contributory Negligence” - I’m not going there as law school was a long time ago and I don’t practice.

I guess the main thing is: there are people out there who think the world owes them a living and they will take whatever they think they can get. It sounds like this guy was trying to go a good deed and got hurt. He may be “something of a scammer” but breaking your own back is one hell of a way to run a scam.

I’m going to say the flow of money will look like this:

[DR & HOSPITAL] <----- [Workman’s Medical Insurance] <----- [Homeowner’s Insurance]

But I’m not a lawyer or insurance professional of ANY kind.
The Homeowner’s policy MIGHT be willing to offer a settlement against future medical expenses, but I’d be VERRRRY careful before signing such a settlement.

He was on her property and was injured, furthermore he was on her roof with her permision. I’d expect home owners insurance to cover it.

Home owners insurance covers alot. It’s a very good thing to have to protect yourself from stupid lawsuits.

A freind of mine took one of her children to a rollerink. He was skating dangerously and slammed into another skater. Her arm was broken in two places. She sued my freinds home owners insurance and they settled for 60k.

Gee, and people wonder why home owner’s insurance rates are so high. :rolleyes:

In a sense, the homeowner was negligent–she gave her untrained klutz of a boyfriend permission to do freelance repairs on her roof.

However, . . .

Here we have the phrases “going after his girlfriend’s insurance company” and “sued my friend’s home owners insurance”. You don’t actually sue the insurance company, of course. The insurance company hasn’t done anything wrong.

Rather, you sue your friend, or your friend accepts liability. If the former, then the insurance company either negotiates a settlement on the friend’s behalf or defends the lawsuit, and pays any settlement. If the latter, the insurance company pays.

However, this will not be without consequence for the “friend”. They will see their insurance costs rise dramatically, and the company will probably cancel coverage since the policyholder is so careless as to have untrained klutzes perform freelance repairs on her house.

Despite its name, homeowners insurance covers more than just your house and bad things that happen in it. It includes “personal liability coverage” that protects you and your family in situations just like roller rink accidents. (Exceptions are accidents involving motor vehicles or business activities, which require auto and PL/GL insurance respectively.)

So yes, that’s one reason why it’s expensive, but it’s also one reason why it’s good to have.

Thanks to everyone for their helpful replies.


Think of it this way. If a friend of yours was helping you work on your roof, the same coverage would apply to you. Where the curveball comes in is things like pain and suffering and or punative damages.

A hefty settlement against the g/f could royally jack up her insurance rates especially if some form of negligence on her part was found (say providing a poorly functioning/broken/weak ladder that caused the fall).

The nice chunk of change = in a nutshell, suing his g/f.

Suing your g/f rarely = orgasms inspired by forementioned g/f ever again.

If this guy had fewer brain cells than business sense he may have tried to charge for his services…if its over $500 he will run afoul of unlicenced contractor laws.