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Why You Need a Personal Umbrella Policy

In recent years, our society has become what some people call "lawsuit happy." In other words, an increasing number of people are filing lawsuits for everything from emotional injury to property damage-and they’re suing for larger amounts than ever before. If someone were to file a lawsuit against you, you could end up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, even if you won.

While you may have some personal liability coverage through your homeowner’s or auto insurance policy, it’s probably not nearly enough to cover a major lawsuit. Fortunately, you can further protect yourself with what’s known as an umbrella policy. This type of policy offers a higher level of liability coverage and ensures that you and your family will be protected if someone sues you for damages.

Umbrella policies: A liability coverage "extension"

When it comes to lawsuits, the more assets you own, the more you stand to lose. A personal umbrella liability policy can protect you from these potentially devastating losses. These policies act as an extension to the current liability protection you probably have through your homeowner’s or auto insurance policy.

Umbrella policies are typically sold in million dollar increments, and you can obtain a policy once your home and auto insurance policies meet a minimum "attachment point"-typically a liability limit of $250,000 or $500,000.

What does it cover?

Most umbrella policies covers the following:

  • Personal injury, including false arrest, mental anguish, malicious prosecution, libel, slander, defamation of character, wrongful entry or eviction, negligent infliction of emotional distress or invasion of privacy.
  • Bodily injury, such as physical injury or death. In some jurisdictions, this also includes emotional injury.
  • Property damage, including destruction of the property of others, cost of recreation and loss of use. However, it does not cover damages done to your own property.
  • Defense coverage, including groundless, false and fraudulent suits, bail bond costs, loss of earning and other "reasonable" expenses.

Of course, it’s probably easier to understand exactly what an umbrella policy covers by putting it into real-life terms. Here are a few examples of what this type of policy could cover:

  • A deliveryman is hauling your new washing machine into your home when he trips on your door mat, falls and breaks his neck. Your umbrella policy would likely cover the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damages.
  • You’re driving down the road when an important corporate CEO steps into the crosswalk in front of your car. He sues you for millions of dollars in medical costs, lost earning and damages. Your umbrella policy can cover you for these damages.
  • Your daughter invites a friend over to play on her swing set. Her friend falls off the slide and suffers from serious injuries. When her parents sue you, your umbrella policy will cover the medical costs.

How much does is it cost?

The price of an umbrella policy depends on how much coverage you want, the number of properties you rent or own and the number of automobiles or watercraft you own. The cost associated with cars and watercraft are much higher than those associated with properties.

Let’s say you are single, you own one home and one car, and you want to purchase a $5 million umbrella policy. You’ll probably pay somewhere between $15 and $40 a month. On the other hand, if you are married with two children, you own two homes, a rental property and three cars, and you want a $10 million umbrella, you’ll probably pay a good deal more-anywhere between $80 and $150 a month.

Talk to your insurance agent to discuss whether or not an umbrella policy is right for you. In the long run, by paying a few hundred dollars per year, you could save millions.

Posted 12:00 AM  View Comments

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