Are You Covered by Home Insurance if Someone Slips on Your Icy Sidewalk?

Plus any additional coverages you may need to protect yourself

Icy Sidewalks

Homeowners have to consider all kinds of potential hazards that could happen on their property, including third-party injuries. So what happens if someone slips and falls on your icy sidewalk? We’ll tell you. We’ll also tell you if you’re covered.

Fortunately, an independent insurance agent can help you consider any risks before they ever happen, from the common to the obscure. They’ve seen and handled all kinds of claims, and they know how to hook you up with the exact protection you need, long before you ever need it. Here’s how they’d help you get covered in the event someone slips on your icy sidewalk.

What Happens if Someone Slips on My Sidewalk and Gets Injured?

Well for starters, you could get sued. However, it may come as a relief that you’re not likely to be held liable for someone getting injured on your icy sidewalk, because precipitation is an act of nature. That being said, there are a couple of scenarios in which you could be deemed responsible for your frozen sidewalk, such as if runoff from your gutters freezes on your sidewalk. Certain towns also require homeowners to keep sidewalks clear of precipitation at all times.

If an injury occurs while a winter storm is in progress, no one can be held liable. Homeowners are never expected to maintain sidewalks while snow and ice is still falling. Different towns have their own requirements in place for how long a homeowner has to clear their sidewalk after the storm has ended. Sometimes it’s a matter of just a couple of hours.

It’s estimated that more than one million Americans injure themselves due to slips and falls on snow and ice annually. That makes it all the more important to work with your independent insurance agent to ensure that you’re covered, just in case things get slippery.

When Is the Sidewalk Your Property vs. the City’s?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer, other than it depends. Certain cities and towns dictate that sidewalks are public property and therefore their maintenance is up to the local government. However, often in non-major cities, sidewalks may still be considered public property, but maintenance responsibilities fall on the homeowner. Check out your town’s local ordinances to confirm whether clearing your sidewalk of ice is your responsibility or not.

What Kind of Insurance Will Help Protect Me or Get Me Back on My Feet after an Incident?

Your homeowners insurance policy will help protect you in the event you are sued due to a third party’s slip and fall on an icy sidewalk on your property. Icy sidewalks are considered a premises exposure by home insurance companies and are a covered peril. Even if you’re accused of negligence and end up being held liable for the accident, your homeowners insurance will help protect you through the liability coverage section of the policy.

Liability Coverage for Homeowners

If a third party gets injured on your property due to a covered peril and you get sued, the liability coverage provided by your homeowners insurance policy will help protect you. Whether or not you end up being held liable in court, you’ll still be relying on your liability coverage to pay for legal fees.

Liability coverage protects homeowners in the following ways:

  • Payment of legal fees: Liability coverage reimburses homeowners for court and attorney fees, as well as any settlements they’re ordered to pay in the event they are held responsible for an incident such as someone slipping on their sidewalk.
  • Medical payments: Liability coverage also takes care of fees associated with treating any third-party injuries that occur on your property due to a covered peril, like an icy sidewalk.

Lawsuits are enough of a hassle in the first place, and whether or not you’re held responsible for an incident like someone slipping on your icy sidewalk, liability coverage seriously helps to take care of the financial repercussions.

Umbrella Coverage for Homeowners

Depending on your specific home and other factors, you may want to consider adding umbrella coverage to help extend your liability coverage’s limits. Umbrella insurance is essentially excess liability coverage that stacks on top of the underlying liability coverage provided by your homeowners policy. Umbrella insurance policies typically come with limits of $1 million in coverage.   

While a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk may not require excess liability or umbrella coverage, there are many common lawsuits that could easily become extremely costly. The most common lawsuits filed against homeowners other than icy walkways include the following:

  • Dog bites: Even injuries caused by a family pet can cost an average of $30,000 in claim settlements.
  • Fallen trees: If a tree on your property falls and damages your neighbor’s home, the resulting financial damage could easily reach into the ten-thousands.
  • Hired help injuries: In the event a domestic worker, such as a maid or gardener, is injured on your property due to your failure to maintain a safe premises, the resulting lawsuit and medical payments required could get expensive, fast.
  • Intoxicated guests: When you throw a party and it gets a little out of hand, you as the homeowner are still held responsible for any property damage or bodily injuries an intoxicated guest causes to other guests.

While you may not be too worried about icy sidewalks, it’s important to consider all the common legal risks to homeowners that could warrant an umbrella insurance policy.

Other Common Home Insurance Claims

Icy sidewalks aren’t a concern for all homeowners, but knowing other risks that homeowners face on a daily basis can seriously help when working with your independent insurance agent to get all the coverage you may need. Check out these stats regarding common home insurance claims.

Homeowners Losses Ranked By Claims Frequency, 2014 to 2018
(Weighted average, 2014 to 2018)

(1) Claims per 100 house years (policies). For homeowners multiple peril policies (HO-2, HO-3, HO-5, and HE-7 for North Carolina). Excludes tenants and condominium owners policies. Excludes Alaska, Texas, and Puerto Rico.
(2) Includes vandalism and malicious mischief.
(3) Includes coverage for unauthorized use of various cards, forgery, counterfeit money, and losses not otherwise classified.

Source: ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business.

The most commonly submitted claims by homeowners in the 2014 to 2018 period were due to wind and hail damage. Following those disasters were claims made due to water damage and freezing. Property damage, fire and lightning, and theft were also commonly reported, as were bodily injury claims, theft, medical payments, and credit card misuse.

Homeowners Insurance Losses By Cause, 2014 to 2018

(1) For homeowners multiple peril policies (HO-2, HO-3, HO-5, and HE-7 for North Carolina). Excludes tenants and condominium owners policies. Excludes Alaska, Texas, and Puerto Rico.
(2) First party, i.e., covers damage to policyholder's own property.
(3) Includes vandalism and malicious mischief.
(4) Payments to others for which policyholder is responsible.
(5) Includes coverage for unauthorized use of various cards, forgery, counterfeit money, and losses not otherwise classified.
(6) Less than 0.1 percent.

Source: ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business.

Property damage claims were by far the most frequently reported for home insurance between 2014 and 2018, with water damage and freezing specifically accounting for 33.6% of all claims in 2014. In 2018, wind and hail claims took the top spot for frequency, accounting for 34.4% of all home claims reported that year. Liability related claims account for less than 4% of total claims each year during the observed period.

Do I Need Extra Endorsements to Protect Me?

In the case of an injury on your icy sidewalk, no, you shouldn’t need any extra endorsements to protect you. Your homeowners insurance will provide significant coverage for these incidents. However, there are certain scenarios when you may want to purchase additional coverage to help protect yourself from common incidents affecting homeowners.

Homeowners often purchase the following coverages in addition to home insurance:

  • Home-based business endorsements: While standard homeowners policies protect against third-party injuries on your property, you’re not protected if you run a business out of your home. You’ll need to add this endorsement if you have a home office or studio in order to ensure you have adequate liability coverage.
  • Personal property endorsements: Standard homeowners policies place limits on expensive personal property items like jewelry and electronics. If you’re worried about these items getting stolen, lost, damaged, or destroyed, it’s a good idea to purchase endorsements for specific pieces you’d like to increase coverage limits for.
  • Sewer backup endorsements: Homeowners insurance protects you against a lot of things, but typically sewage backup isn’t one of them. While this incident would be messy enough in the first place, not having coverage would really be a nightmare. Talk with your independent insurance agent about adding a sewer backup endorsement to your coverage.
  • Flood insurance: Many natural disasters are covered under standard homeowners insurance policies, but floods aren’t one of them. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you’ll want to purchase a flood insurance policy to protect your home against damage or destruction due to flood waters.
  • Earthquake insurance: Also known as earth movement policies, this coverage protects homeowners against home damage due to earthquakes, mudslides, and other related natural events. Standard homeowners policies do not provide coverage for these types of disasters.

Your independent insurance agent can help you address any remaining coverage concerns you may have. They’ll make sure you get set up with all the protection you could possibly need against many different kinds of unforeseen disasters.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Would Help

When it comes to protecting third parties against slips on an icy sidewalk and all other strange incidents, no one’s better equipped to help than an independent insurance agent. Independent insurance agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in homeowners and all other forms of insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources, and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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