Liability Coverage Under a Homeowner Policy for a Potential Personal Injury Claim Related to COVID-19
The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in very significant disruption to our everyday lives. In this article, we discuss how third-party injury claims related to COVID-19 may or may not be covered under most homeowner insurance policies.
What is covered under a Homeowner Policy?
Standard homeowner insurance policies include property insurance and personal liability insurance. This article will focus only on the liability section of the policy.
In order for there to be coverage for a claim, the event giving rise to the claim must be accidental rather than intentional, or inevitable. Homeowner policies do not address “intentional” acts. The policyholder must be proven to be negligent by a court of law.
It is not 100% clear whether infection by a virus will be considered “bodily injury” however, most policies also include “disease” or “sickness” within the definition of coverage. It is possible this ambiguity may be interpreted by courts in favour of policyholders.
What if your neighbour claims you gave them COVID-19?
If you’ve been confirmed to have the COVID-19 virus, and you negligently disobey public health orders to self-quarantine causing the spread of the infection to others, then you may be held liable whether or not your homeowner insurance policy is not clear. To be safe, you should immediately report any legal action threatened, or real to your insurance carrier.
Given that the virus is spreading throughout the community, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible, for a third party to successfully argue that they’d acquired the disease from a specific individual. Nonetheless, we anticipate that plaintiff counsel will endeavour to make this argument in front of the court.
In the end, Lawyers and Courts will debate these issues for years to come. In the meantime, you should report any potential liability claim to your insurer immediately. This will preserve your rights under the policy for future consideration.
Essential services workers may be exempt from liability.
Provincial Governments have moved quickly to establish statutes intended to protect essential service workers from liability relating to the spread of COVID-19. We expect the courts will interpret those statutes liberally in favour of the workers. However, in extreme cases the court may take the opposite view, therefore, caution is your best protection.
Our advice to policyholders
If in doubt, call us to discuss your specific circumstances. Each policy is unique and must be interpreted by a licensed insurance broker. In the unlikely event that you are accused of spreading the infection do not sit back and wait for “things to blow over.” Report the incident to your insurance carrier or to our office and we will do so on your behalf.