An occurrence is another word for an accident – in insurance, it refers to any bodily injury or property damage that happens when your policy is active.
Let’s define occurrence
An occurrence is an accident that results in damage to your property or yourself. It has to happen during your policy term (otherwise it won’t be covered by your insurer), and can include continuous exposure to the same harmful condition.
When an occurrence happens, it’s on you to notify your insurer by filing a claim.
Your insurer will help you with the occurrence up to your limit of liability, which is a number you chose when buying a policy that represents the max amount they’ll pay in case something bad happens. Anything above the limit falls on you. So say you have $100K in personal liability but you’re being sued for $500K, you’ll have to cover that gap.
Examples of common occurrences:
Let’s break down some common scenarios to see how occurrences work in insurance:
- If your cooking at a holiday party makes your guests sick (ew!), your homeowners policy should cover the medical bills and possibly any resulting lawsuits. There are restrictions on most policies, so be sure to check the wording.
- If you’re sued after your friend slipped on spilled beer and broke his leg, your policy may cover the costs to get you out of this jam.
- If one of your friends gets hurt in your apartment, goes to the hospital, and decides to sue you (what a friend, right?), your personal liability coverage will kick in for both medical and legal fees.
- If your house fire reaches your neighbor’s apartment and wreaks havoc, the damages should be covered under your insurance policy.
- Taking it one step further, if your neighbor is VERY unhappy and decides to take you to court, your coverage will once again kick in, legal fees and all.
Any intentional acts are not covered, nor is negligence. So remember: friends don’t let friends drive drunk. If you do, your liability as a host may not be covered.
You're responsibilities when an occurrence happens
So something happened. What’s next?
Luckily, it’s all set out in your policy in the ‘Duties After Occurrence’ section.
Here are the main responsibilities you have and steps you need to take when an occurrence happens:
- Immediately contact your insurer, sending them the names of everyone on your policy, the details of what happened (and when), and the names + contact info of any witnesses.
- Cooperate with your insurer and claims adjusters when it comes to the investigation, settlement, or defense of any claim or suit.
- Forward along any notice, demand, etc. that you may receive regarding the occurrence in a timely manner.
- When it comes to damaged property, make sure to send over a detailed list of the losses, documentation, and pics ASAP.
- While the good samaritan inside of you may want to help out immediately in the case of bodily injury, don’t voluntarily make payment, assume obligation, or incur any out-of-pocket expenses other than for basic first aid – that’s what your insurer for.