In the wake of events at Marist High School - A Personal Injury Review

In the wake of events that occurred at Marist High School late last year, I wanted to review Personal Injury Insurance.

It is widely thought that a homeowner's insurance policy covers only incidents that physically occur in the home, which is partially correct. In fact, coverage can go beyond the home and can insure you for a personal injury claim, if the right conditions are in place. One may think of the term "personal injury" as requiring a physical injury suffered by another party. While a liability policy will likely apply to an incident of physical injury, personal injury is a broader concept. In the insurance world, personal injury can include harm caused by false arrest, detention, or imprisonment; malicious prosecution; wrongful eviction; slander; libel; and invasion of privacy. Basically, a personal injury policy can protect a homeowner and others covered under the policy against a claim for almost every injury that someone can experience without suffering any actual physical harm.

Given this broader definition of personal injury, would your policy cover a claim for accidentally saying something personally harmful on social media? It depends. Here are the most likely scenarios of what you may have:

  1. A homeowner's policy that covers liability, but does not cover personal injury liability. In this case, you would not be covered.
  2. A homeowner's policy that specifically includes personal injury, but the coverage was added in as an endorsement. If a liability coverage amount appears on your policy, it may cover only physical injury and property damage; it may not cover personal injury. To cover personal injury, the added endorsement must specifically state the words "Personal Injury."
  3. A deluxe type of homeowner's policy that automatically covers personal injury. These policies are typically designed for large homes that are over a certain square footage and for homeowners with more sophisticated needs. Also, the cost of these policies is slightly higher than a regular homeowner's policy, and the policy often includes a number of other additional endorsements.
  4. You have an umbrella policy. Many umbrella policies automatically include personal injury coverage and drop down to first dollar coverage. However, don't automatically presume this.

The bottom line is, if you are very active on social media or even in your community, you are more prone to getting sued. What you say may be perfectly fine. However, if someone feels that your statement has injured them, as innocent as you thought your statement was, that person can file suit against you with or without an attorney. The best part is that, if you have personal injury coverage, the insurance company will defend you against such a suit at no cost to you. This can save you thousands of dollars in legal fees, and you will be represented by one of the best attorneys to fend off false allegations. Lastly, if something you said or the way that you said it is determined to render you liable for personal injury to another party, your insurance company will pay the amount of the judgment up to your policy coverage limits.

It is best to give us a call to find out if your homeowner's or renter's policy has personal injury coverage. If not, for a minimal additional premium, you can add this important coverage. If you already have this coverage or you add it, make sure that it is listed on the coverage page of your policy and that the appropriate provision is in the policy. Many policies nowadays are sent via an electronic PDF file. It is easy to do a keyword search for "Personal Injury" to see if this is included and that the language further states that you have coverage. This is not something that you want to wait to add after you have been served with suit papers, because, at that point, it will be too late. 

Dan Zeiler

708.597.5900 x134

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