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Keven Moore: It’s the season for garage sales and yard sales, and with every good thing comes liability


With school out and summer underway, that means that we are officially in garage and yard sale season. But then if you are like me, you are quickly reminded of how it draws out the worst in people. Like the time I stepped around the side of my house to see where a guy went, just to find him urinating on the side of my house behind the garbage cans.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@higusa.com

Or the time somebody spent 10 minutes haggling with me by offering a dollar for a $10 item, only to later offer him a dollar to please leave. Or the time I was awakened by early birds beating on the garage door at 6 a.m., or the savvy but dishonest shopper that tried to switch out an $8 price tag with a .25 cent tag.

Garage and yard sales offer up some of the most interesting stories and bring out some of the most interesting people. They have become a staple in America’s culture as they seem never to grow old in popularity — as according to statisticbrain.com there are a total of 165,000 garage sales a week, with nearly 5 million items being sold for a total of over $4.9M in revenue each week in the U.S.

A garage sale is a wonderful way to clean out your home, make a little extra pocket change and do our environment some good by providing second life to your useless belongings. But your enterprising idea could get expensive if someone gets hurt on your property and decides to sue you.

There are numerous stories of accidents and claims, where garage sale shoppers have become injured while rummaging thru your items. There are even stories out there where customers have even staged an accident, just to try to file a claim on your homeowner’s policy.

The fact is, we live in a very litigious society where any bargain-hunter could allegedly slip and fall, or drop something on themselves or even their child in your front yard, and you could be held legally liable for any damages or injuries resulting from such an incident. This may not cause you to panic, but when you consider that the average personal injury settlement amount is approximately $62,600, you may want to continue reading.

Before you open up that garage door and invite total strangers onto your property, I would advise you to check with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate liability insurance. Both homeowners’ and renters’ insurance will provide liability protection that covers and protects you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or your family members could cause during a garage sale.

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This coverage pays for both the cost of defending yourself in court and court awards— up to whatever the limit is on your policy.

Most standard home and renters insurance policies will generally provide at least $100,000 of liability coverage and additional limits on liability can be added from $200K to $500K. Most policyholders do not recognize that they have no-fault medical coverage as part of the liability protection in most standard homeowners or renter’s policies. This coverage allows anyone who gets injured on your property to simply submit his or her medical bills to your insurance company. The intent of this coverage is so that medical bills can be paid without resorting to a lawsuit. Most policies include about $1,000 to $5,000 worth of coverage.

For those who may feel more comfortable with more liability coverage to protect their family assets, you can also consider purchasing an umbrella or excess liability policy.

These policies cost about $200 to $350 for each $1 million of additional liability protection purchased, and they will provide broader coverage for claims involving libel and slander, to provide better peace of mind.

Should your insurance company determine that you were holding frequent garage or yard sales, there is a real good chance that they will deny coverage and you could be covering that cost as an uninsured garage seller. So it is recommended that you contact your insurance agent to purchase a separate policy for business liability or an in-home business policy before your next sale.

For those of you who come together as a group or a neighborhood during a yard sale, your homeowner’s policy should cover such an event. If you are holding a sale to raise money for your favorite charity, that too should be covered, but you still may want to check with your agent. To help transfer the risk away from you and your family, you could even contact the charity to see if they are willing to add your event as an additional insured to their policy.

If you are a flea marker swapper or even a first-time space renter to swap your junk at a swap meet or flea market, your homeowner liability coverage will not apply. You’ll need to purchase separate coverage, either purchased through the organizers of the meet or your very own insurer.

In addition to checking your insurance coverage, plan your sale with safety in mind by following these simple steps:

• Stage your sale outside away from your home on your driveway or yard where there are very few hazards to cause an injury.

• Keep your pets, indoors during the sale as some pets become very protective when strangers enter your property.

• When staging your sale, steer clear of drop-offs and elevated areas, raised concrete, or sidewalks that could cause a slip, trip, or fall.

• Repair loose railings and remove all trip hazards.

• Never invite people into your home, and section off the sales area to keep people away from dangerous areas within your garage where people can get hurt.

• Neatly place sale items so that there is enough space to move about without tripping.

• Keep a close eye on children and remind their parents that they must be supervised while shopping.

• Keep sharp and dangerous objects out of reach of children.

• Make sure that sales tables and objects are stable so that they cannot fall over and injure somebody.

• Do not sell items that you know are unsafe or hazardous to others, including recalled items.

• If someone does get injured, never admit fault and make sure that you get them medical attention as soon as possible. But thoroughly investigate the incident and record witness statements, take pictures and collect any available evidence to include witness statements.

Be Safe My Friends


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One Comment

  1. Yes! Garage and yard sales can offer a fun and exciting way to get one-of-a-kind items at an affordable price. Sellers can make money on things they no longer have use for, while buyers can make their purchases, mark up the price, and resell the items online. But, it can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for when going to a garage sale. It’s best to have a plan of action before heading out. Here are some key tips for successfully buying from garage sales: Know your budget and have an idea of what you are looking for.

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