The definition of negligence has two parts. Negligence occurs when you:
- Fail to use reasonable care and
- Your failure causes loss or damage to someone.
Failure To Use Reasonable Care
Renters insurance covers liability for bodily injury and property damage arising from your negligence. You only are liable for those damages if they arise out of your failure to use reasonable care and consideration. That makes sense, because you can’t be responsible for damage that you didn’t cause.
In order to be negligent, your lack of due care does not need to be terribly egregious. It can be something as simple as not paying attention while you’re walking down the street.
If, because of your failure to pay attention, you bump into someone, you’re negligent.
If you’re not paying attention to your child and they run into someone, you’re negligent.
If you’re not paying attention to the stove and there’s a fire, you’re negligent.
In order for liability to attach, however, there’s another element to negligence that must be met.
Your Failure Causes Loss Or Damage To Someone
If you bump into someone on the street, and say “pardon me” and both of you go on with your day, there is no bodily injury and no property damage. No harm was done, and therefore you’re not liable. In other words, there’s nothing to be liable for.
If the person your child runs into laughs it off and sends them back in your direction with a gentle warning to be more careful, that person wasn’t injured and there’s no loss or damage.
If you extinguish the fire and it never leaves the inside of the pot you’re cooking in, there’s no damage of any kind.
The potential damages from your negligence, however, are great.
If you bump into someone on the street and they fall, they might break a hip if they’re an older person. Because you weren’t paying attention and caused bodily injury to them, you’re responsible for the loss. That’s negligence resulting in bodily injury.
If the person your child runs into trips and drops the things they’re carrying, that could be negligence resulting in property damage.
If you can’t put out the fire, and it spreads, that’s negligence that could result in both property damage and bodily injury.
A kitchen fire in an apartment is one of the most concerning examples of negligence, and the most expensive as well. Kitchen fires get out of control in just seconds, and they quickly spread to your particle board cabinets. Those cabinets are now on fire, and they set the rest of your apartment on fire.
Your apartment is gutted, there’s nothing left. There’s significant property damage to the landlord, and you’re responsible for it because it arose from your negligence in looking away from the pan on the stove.
But it gets worse. Apartments are close quarters. There’s almost guaranteed smoke damage to other residents, because air and smoke often travel between apartments. There’s fire damage to their property, and additional fire damage to other apartments. You’re even responsible for damage from the water used to put out the fire, because the fire is your fault.
If there’s bodily injury such as a hospital visit for smoke inhalation, or worse, death, to someone else resulting from that fire, or otherwise arising from your negligence, you’re responsible for the entirety of that loss. That means that not only will you have the landlord and other tenants wanting to be made whole, but any health insurance companies involved will try to collect the cost of the medical care arising from your negligence from you.
You know what medical care costs, with or without insurance. But along with that person’s health insurance company, the property insurance companies that insure all of the other residents of the building will be looking to you to reimburse them for the cost of the loss they paid out. That will even include the coverage they paid on for loss of use for all of the people who couldn’t stay in the building and had to stay in hotels because of your fire.
You can see how quickly the cost of a loss can grow. You could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars for something that happened by accident because you weren’t paying attention. This is not a rare happening, either. Apartment fires tied directly to the negligence of one individual person happen every single day.
How can you protect yourself? Preventing negligence entirely is not practical. People have lapses in judgement, even when they normally are very cautious. You can never guarantee that you won’t be negligent, or that you won’t cause a loss. Further, if someone suffers a loss and they think you’re negligent and caused it, they can sue you. That doesn’t mean you’re responsible, but it does mean you have to defend yourself against the suit.
Defending yourself against a suit for your negligence that caused bodily injury or property damage is very, very expensive. Personal injury lawyers work on contingency and get paid out of the settlement, but your defense attorney does not. He needs to be paid up front. Fortunately, your renters insurance policy will defend you against a suit that would result in the policy paying for the loss. That’s in addition, of course, to paying for the loss.
For about fifteen dollars a month, you can be protected against the costs of losses arising from your negligence or from accidents, as well as the costs of defending yourself against that lawsuit. The protection even includes coverage for your personal property, too. Renters insurance is more affordable than ever, and it takes just sixty seconds to get covered!
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