An ice slip and fall at a residence is generally going to be covered by the owner’s homeowners insurance policy. Homeowner’s insurance is a combination of several types of property and liability insurance coverage purchased by the property owner to protect against risks that arise within and around the home, including dangerous conditions like ice on a sidewalk.

The homeowner’s liability coverage may provide insurance covering either an occurrence happening during the policy period or a claim made during the policy period. It is important to read the policy to see how coverage is defined. The liability insurance will typically cover accidents and negligent conduct. It does not cover intentional conduct in most cases. This has been explained as follows by the Wisconsin Supreme Court:

Turning then to the common definition, we discover that “accident” is defined as “[a]n unexpected, undesirable event” or “an unforeseen incident” which is characterized by a “lack of intention.” The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language, 11 (3rd ed. 1992). Similarly, “negligence” is defined as “failure to exercise the degree of care considered reasonable under the circumstances, resulting in an unintended injury to another party.” Id. at 1209.

It is significant that both definitions center on an unintentional occurrence leading to undesirable results. As we have recognized in the past, comprehensive general liability policies are “designed to protect an insured against liability for negligent acts resulting in damage to third-parties.”

Doyle v. Engelke, 219 Wis. 2d 277, 289-90, 580 N.W.2d 245 (1998).

The types of losses or damages covered by general liability or homeowners insurance include past and future medical bills, past and future loss of wages, and past and future pain, suffering and disability.

The keys in getting the best settlement for an ice slip and fall are establishing ownership or responsibility for the property involved and the ice or dangerous condition; that there is insurance coverage for that property owner or occupier; and then the elements of liability including negligence, cause and damages. On occasion it is necessary to have experts such as investigators or even a title insurance company determine ownership of property. In one case we had to determine the where the property line was as the property fell between two counties.

If the property is under lease, the leasee may have renters insurance to cover a fall on an ice covered sidewalk if the tenant was in control or responsible for snow and ice removal. Without insurance coverage most cases are not pursued unless the owner or entity responsible has assets to cover the losses from the fall on ice.

McCormick Law Office attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.