Civil liability and insurance
What is civil liability?
In Quebec, the concept of civil liability refers to a person’s obligation to repair the damage they have caused to other people.
It entails paying a compensation to anyone suing you for property damage or personal injury for which you may be liable or for which you’ve been found to be negligent.
Whether you’re a homeowner or tenant, civil liability insurance is included in your home insurance policy, and it gives you financial protection against lawsuits and legal fees for damage or injury that you may have unintentionally caused.
If you’re a co-owner, you are required by law to have civil liability insurance.
How does civil liability insurance protect you?
Civil liability insurance protects you by:
- Paying your lawyer’s fees and other court fees if you’re sued for causing damage or injury as a result of negligence.
- Compensating on your behalf the person who suffered the consequences of the acts you’re accused of when you are held liable.
What civil liability insurance covers
Because the types of damage or injury vary widely in terms of severity and potential financial costs, purchasing civil liability insurance gives you peace of mind. It covers you whether the damage or injury was caused by you or by any other person, animal or property in your custody.
You are covered for damage or injury that occurs in your home or anywhere else in the world.
Like what, for example?
Here are a few examples that illustrate how important having civil liability insurance is should you be sued:
- You’re on vacation and playing beach sports. You accidentally injure another vacationer who happens to be a prominent surgeon, and they decide to sue you for negligence.
- You’re a tenant and start a fire while you’re cooking. The fire damages other tenants’ property and the building.
- At the park, your usually docile dog bites a stranger’s face causing physical and psychological trauma.
- A delivery person slips on a patch of ice on your stairs and can no longer work.
In these situations, your insurer will cover your lawyer fees for your defence. If you are found to be at fault, the sums claimed will also be paid by your insurer, within your coverage limit. The limit is usually $1 million. As an insured, you can choose the amount of your insurance coverage.
To learn more about which situations your insurance policy covers and which are excluded, read your insurance policy and ask your insurer.
Refusal to pay
Note that there are situations where your insurer may refuse to pay. For example, if you intentionally caused an incident that harmed another person, or if you lied to your insurer about the circumstances by making a false statement.
Have you received a formal notice or being sued?
When you receive a formal notice or are being sued for a situation that is covered by your civil liability insurance, your insurer will pay your lawyer and court fees.
You need to inform your insurer as soon as you’ve been served.
If the courts decide that you need to pay for the damage or injury you’ve caused, your insurer will pay the sums claimed by the person suing you.
However, if the sums are greater than the coverage in your policy, you will need to cover the difference from your own pocket.