Does renters insurance cover personal injury?

Banana peel

You may have heard that most renters insurance will cover medical bills and even legal fees if someone gets hurt at your apartment. But what exactly does that mean?

If your friend breaks an arm during a drunken game of living room floor hockey, will renters insurance medical coverage treat that injury the same way it would if your friend sliced their finger open during a totally sober guacamole-making marathon? Does it matter who the injured party is and, more specifically, who invited them over?

We get it—your friends are brilliant, fully coordinated humans who never do anything stupid and have definitely never been to the emergency room for avocado-related stitches. But accidents happen, and you should know the answer to the question, “Am I liable if someone gets hurt on my property?” So in the interest of being extra informed, we put together this handy little explainer to walk you through the “injured guest” portion of your insurance policy.

Let’s dig in…

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Who’s protected by renters insurance medical coverage?

To start, let’s look at what isn’t protected by liability coverage. Your accidents are definitely not. For example, if you break your toe stumbling toward the kitchen for a late night snack, that’s on you (or your health insurance). Who else isn’t covered? Family members who live with you are typically excluded from this kind of coverage.

Otherwise, most types of guests—friends over to watch the game, coworkers over for a dinner party, classmates over for a study sesh—can get money from your insurance company if they’re injured at your place.

Does renters insurance cover personal injury for your roommate?

Roommates are a bit more complicated when it comes to renters insurance medical coverage. If your roommate gets injured and seeks a payout from your insurance, they may or may not be successful. It’ll depend on the circumstances of the incident, whether they’re living with you on a short-term or long-term basis, and whether they can prove that they were injured due to your negligence. (Learn more about sharing renters insurance with roommates.)

Which brings us to the next question…

Am I liable if someone gets hurt on my property and it’s my fault?

A typical renters policy has two types of liability coverage, or coverage for injuries that occur at your place.

The first type covers medical payments for no-fault accidents on your property, generally up to a $5,000 limit. This is the scenario in which your friend slips up removing the pit from an avocado and slices open her palm. You didn’t have a particularly dangerous knife, or a particularly slippery avocado. It was an accident, plain and simple.

So why would your renters insurance medical coverage kick in for a no-fault accident like this? If your friend doesn’t have health insurance, she might seek a payout from your insurance to help cover her medical bills. Even if your friend does have health insurance, her insurance might still push for your renters insurance to get involved, especially if there’s any question at all about who was at fault.

The second type of liability coverage in most renters insurance policies is “at fault” liability—coverage that kicks in if you accidentally injure someone, or if someone gets hurt due to your negligence.

An accidental injury is pretty clear; if you trip carrying a vat of your famous chili into the living room and the scalding hot liquid burns your friend’s leg, you’ve accidentally injured them, and your renters insurance should cover any associated medical bills.

But what does “negligence” mean? Let’s say you don’t have a pad under your living room rug, and you know that it skids a bit any time you walk across it. That’s a situation in which you’re being negligent—you’ve created a potentially dangerous situation and you’re aware of it, but you’ve done nothing about it. If your friend comes over and wipes out when that rug slips out from under them, your insurance would pay their medical bills under the “at fault” portion of your liability coverage.

Negligence can sometimes apply even when you’re not aware you’ve created a dangerous situation. If a trail of unidentifiable goo leaks from your garbage as you carry it to the trash chute and your neighbor slips on that goo, their medical bills will most likely be covered by the “at fault” portion of your policy.

Generally, “at fault” liability coverage carries a $100,000 minimum, which means you must insure yourself for at least that amount.

What if your guest was injured due to their own recklessness?

Your friend would never do anything dumb, but what if they bring a friend who brings a friend who brings a friend? When that friend—er, friend’s friend’s friend—decides to turn your extra-long hallway into an indoor slip ‘n’ slide, or gets wasted and trips over your coffee table, they were injured due to their own reckless behavior, and they’re most likely on their own with their medical bills. There are some instances where your renters insurance medical payments coverage could kick in up to your limit—typically $1,000 to $5,000. (If you’re not sure about your limits, contact your insurance provider.)

Still, if your guest does decide to come after you for an amount of money that exceeds your medical payments limit, your insurance provider has the “duty to defend”—which means they’ll handle the case, hire a lawyer, and ultimately negotiate any payout.

Does it matter who invited the guest for renters insurance to cover a personal injury?

Potentially. In the case of the true no-fault accident—that friend who cut herself helping cook for your dinner party—if you and your roommate are both insured, but you’re the one who invited the guest, your insurance is probably the one that will pay.

If there’s an issue of negligence, it could depend on who’s at fault.

Let’s say your guest gets hurt when a rickety chair collapses beneath them. If that chair is in your roommate’s bedroom, your roommate’s insurance would most likely be the one to pay out. If the chair is in your living room, and both you and your roommate know it’s on its last legs (we went there), it’s theoretically possible that both of your insurance carriers could share the payout.

What if the injured person was Airbnb-ing your place?

Generally, Airbnb is considered a commercial business activity, and related claims are not included in your renters insurance medical coverage.

Is there anything else that definitely isn’t covered?

If you intentionally harmed your guest, resulting injuries would not be covered. If you hurt someone while committing a crime, or if the injured party was injured while committing a crime—for example, if they fell while trespassing on your property—that’s excluded. And as with any insurance claims, injury-related claims are subject to all applicable plan limits and maximum payouts.

What if you’re insured and your roommate isn’t?

The reason this kind of liability exists is to make the injured party whole—to make up for the financial losses related to their injury or treatment. Chances are, if an injured guest is looking to recoup that kind of money, it won’t make sense for them to seek payment from someone without insurance, unless your roommate happens to make bank. Part of the reason minimums for liability coverage are so high (remember that $100,000 figure?) is that most people don’t tend to have this kind of cash lying around.

Situations involving injury can be tricky, and the specifics matter. Make sure you know the answers to questions like, “Does renters insurance cover slip and fall?” in order to be as prepared as possible. Ideally, you and all of your roommates would have renters insurance, so you’re all protected from all kinds of damages.

If you want to protect yourself, take a look at Jetty’s plans—we’ll have your back. (And, in some cases, your friend’s back.)

What else does renters insurance cover?

Liability coverage and medical payments to others are just two of the four basic types of coverage typically found in a renters insurance plan. What does renters insurance cover beyond liability and medical payments to others? The other two are:

  • Contents coverage. This is protection for your belongings, also known as the “contents” of your home or apartment. You may not think you own much, but if you’re unlucky enough to suffer damage in a fire or other incident, the costs can really add up. Imagine paying to replace your clothes, your electronics, your furniture, and your dishes—all at once. For most people, those bills would add up to at least $20,000. If you have an adequate amount of renters insurance, your insurance company will cover it. If not, you’ll be paying out of pocket.
  • Loss of use. Loss of use coverage is protection that kicks in when a covered peril, like a fire or burst pipe, renders your place uninhabitable. Your renters insurance will put you up in temporary accommodations while your place is undergoing repairs, and may even pay for some reasonable additional living expenses, like all the take-out you’ll be eating while you’re without a kitchen. Note that loss of use only applies in certain situations. If your heat goes out for a few days, or a tree branch nicks a small hole in your roof, your place will likely still be considered habitable, and you’ll have to tough it out until those issues are resolved.