Flying Squirrels, Oh My!
A recent backyard dinner party led to the question “what happens if a squirrel flies from a tree and hits someone?”
Yeah, of course we never covered that in law school (at least not that I was awake for), so I consulted with my insurance broker to find out more about what might be covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy in the event of a flying squirrel.
Please don’t think I’m nuts, but here’s the story.
Sitting under a large tree enjoying appetizers with our guests when all of the sudden my long-suffering wife screamed and we noticed several branches of leaves came down on her shoulder and head. What took a moment to realize was that a squirrel had fallen from the tree about 25 feet right onto Beth’s shoulder and head. It scampered away between the legs of a guest (who moved so fast his previously torn calf muscle spasmed!).
While she was sore the next day, it wasn’t a serious injury. No squirrel bites, no rabies shots, no broken bones, and no concussion (unless you count me closing the sliding door on my own head in a rush to prevent bugs from getting inside, but that’s my own idiocy).
So, I wondered, what does a homeowner’s policy cover if someone gets hit (and hurt) by a flying squirrel or other animal on your property?
Toss This to the Dogs
The law is well-established in Illinois that dog attacks and dog bites are covered by homeowner’s insurance.
But what about “wild” animals?
After parsing through this with my insurance friend, we both concluded that there was no negligence on our part, so if a guest had been hurt, our carrier would likely deny the claim. (That friend is Michael Jones, CAPI, CISR, PLCS, who is the Senior Director of Private Risk Management at BKS Partners/Rosenthal Brothers).
While any medical bills would probably be paid through the policy’s medical payments provision up to the dollar limits, there would be no liability payment in all likelihood.
So unless you, the homeowner, are harboring animals in your trees and do something negligent (perhaps failing to keep the tree in proper trim, causing the branches to break too easily?), your coverage will likely not cover this.
Very simply, unless you “own or control” the animal in question, as a homeowner, you are likely not covered by any claims for negligence. If your pet potbelly pig bites a guest, you’re covered. If your pet snake strangles a guest, you should also be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. But a flying squirrel isn’t yours and isn’t controlled by you, so you would not be covered by insurance.
However, keep in mind that IF you do get sued by an injured guest, your insurance company would have a duty to defend you in any lawsuit (obviously arguing there is no coverage and asking for the case to be dismissed). Simple rule is if anything happens, call your insurer and make a claim. Let them handle it from there. If you get sued or receive notice of a claim, notify your carrier immediately.
Vermin, Vermin Everywhere
But not here. Vermin are excluded as to wear and tear to property (rats, mice, termites). So while squirrels are generally considered vermin (or dinner, in some parts of the world), they would not fall under this exclusion from coverage. Falling from a tree is not the same as eating up a house!
In God’s Country
There are exceptions to insurance coverage for “Acts of God,” which has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with things out of the control of humans, such as hurricanes, falling trees during extreme storms, epic floods, and the like.
A flying squirrel would not be excluded under an “Act of God” policy exception. That’s just nature, but not an “Act of God.”
Which leaves us with good old negligence as the only realistic basis on which to hope for coverage. However, it is impossible to see any negligence on the homeowner’s part here.
The short answer is that, with the exception of medical payments coverage, there is probably no coverage or way to prove negligence for a flying squirrel. So any injured guests would get their medical bills covered up to your dollar amount limit, but they would likely not have a negligence claim against you that would be either viable or covered by insurance.
Flying squirrels are just one example of things that happen all the time that may not be covered by insurance.
- If a squirrel flies through the woods and no one is there for it to fall on, it won’t be an insurance problem. And if no one hears or sees it, no one cares anyway.
- Flying squirrels are likely not covered by homeowner’s insurance unless you can prove the homeowner did something negligent (extremely unlikely) or that the homeowner owned or controlled the squirrel.
- You or your guest’s medical bills likely would be paid up to the medical payments limits of the policy
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury, FLYING SQUIRRELS, dog bites or injuries, workers’ compensation, medical malpractice, or other injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.