Imagine this: You’re at your friend’s backyard party enjoying a beer on their patio. You stumble and reach out to grab the rail, except it’s not built to code and doesn’t support your weight. You tumble and break your leg. You can’t work for six months. Who will support your family in that time?
This is a tricky topic.
Technically, when you sue a neighbour, you’re really going after their insurance company, so on the surface of it, it shouldn’t impact your friendship.
But the reality is that emotions are never that cut and dry and friendship is an emotional thing. It can be tough to preserve the friendship.
No matter how amicable it is, the neighbour who owns the house will have to read words about themselves like ‘negligent, guilty, irresponsible’ and that’s tough for even the most reasonable neighbours to process.
Furthermore, if you sue and you win, your neighbour’s premiums will likely go up so it’s not like they are 100% personally off the hook.
Not to mention that the plaintiff (if you’re injured and you’re suing, you are the plaintiff) also must be willing to withstand possible character attacks on behalf of the homeowners insurance company. In this case, the insurance company may zero in on the plaintiff’s beer drinking, employment history, other lifestyle factors that may not be flattering and could lower the amount of the settlement.
Even when neighbours enter into lawsuits with the best of intentions i.e. Neighbour A: I can’t work and need the money, so I will sue your insurance company, but I’m not suing you. Neighbour B: I totally understand, and I want you to get the settlement you need. Anything I can do to help… it’s hard to stay objective – and remain friends – over the long term.
So the question becomes, what CAN you do to protect your friendships when injuries happen?
Can You Deal Directly With Your Insurance Company?
You could always ask your insurance company to step into the breech.
What happens is that the injured friend will serve a notice letter to the homeowner signaling the intent to sue. The homeowner will present it to the insurance company who might want to talk to the injured party. The insurance company may or may not be willing to make an offer.
This approach would be gentler on the friendship, but here’s the rub:
An insurance company will only pay out without a lawsuit in extreme circumstances where the homeowner was clearly negligent and the injuries are obvious (this is rare.)
But it’s important to know that the injured party would be unlikely to get a fair settlement. Basically the insurance company would agree to a lower sum to settle it quickly in order to avoid a lawsuit, which might result in their paying out a lot more. In other words: They will only pay you if they think you will win the lawsuit.
Not to mention this option could still result in higher premiums for the homeowner.
So is it really an option? I don’t recommend it.
This brings us back to my original 100% honest response: If you have to sue your neighbour, you’re probably not going to save your friendship.
What CAN You Do To Save Your Friendship?
I’d say try to protect your friendships by protecting your friends.
Make sure your home is safe, and that, when you have people over, you’re a responsible host and use common sense. Of course accidents happen, but you want to make sure, at least on your end, you do everything you can to keep your guests safe.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide what’s more important, compensation for your injury or your friendships, and let’s hope that circumstance doesn’t make this decision for you.