The concrete sidewalks surrounding homes located in areas known for heavy rain and flooding often suffer damage. Moisture and temperature frequently contribute to major cracks in sidewalks. There are more than just aesthetic concerns present with broken and cracked sidewalks. Liability issues arise as well. If a homeowner blatantly chooses not to fix the damage, insurance coverage may be excluded. At this point, the homeowner is personally liable for any medical or punitive claims by an injured party. To avoid such a situation from occurring, homeowners must understand what is required of them to avoid being deemed negligent.
Unforeseen Incidents and Liability Coverage
Accidents outside of the control of a homeowner can and do happen. Insurance policies should cover these situations in good faith. If lightning were to strike the front of the property and damaged the sidewalk, a homeowner's policy likely will provide liability coverage as long as the sidewalk is repaired within a reasonable amount of time. To preserve the policy's liability coverage, it would be best to call a contractor to fix the damage immediately.
Gross Negligence and Liability
When a homeowner chooses to outright refuse or to make repairs to weather-related or other damage on his or her property, however, things change. Ignoring the cracked condition of a sidewalk for weeks, months, or even years puts the onus of fault on the owner. Homeowners insurance policies won't likely extend coverage for such gross negligence. Under the law, gross negligence is defined as "action or omission that represents an extreme disregard for the safety of others when a reasonable duty of care is owed."
Homeowners are advised to follow two major steps:
Taking the bare minimum of steps is not a "reasonable duty of care." For minor cracks, there are special concrete filler kits that can be used for a temporary fix. Trying to fill up a series of very deep holes and massive cracks across a number of concrete blocks is not advisable. The end result could be sloppy and uneven and, certainly, would not reduce the chances of a slip and fall hazard. Going this route might actually add to the gross negligence.
Resurfacing or outright concrete replacement work may be enough to satisfy the owner's responsibilities. Those who are unsure about what they have to do should just call the insurance agency and ask what needs to be done to satisfy their end of the contract. Have the insurance company send out the requirements in writing and make sure any receipt from the repair contract reflects that these requirements were met.
Basically, good due diligence on the part of the insured usually keeps a policy in good standing. Contact a company like Red Oak Insurance Agency for more information.
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