The average award for a personal injury lawsuit is $789,784, above the limits of many homeowners or standard auto policies.1 With a rising need for Personal Umbrella insurance the key for brokers and agents is to educate and inform clients of the exposures they face and how to properly protect themselves.
“For a few hundred dollars, insureds can gain a $1 million Personal Umbrella insurance policy – making it affordable not just for the high-value homeowner, but for the average individual,” says Sylvia Ornelas, Director, Personal Insurance, Burns & Wilcox, Los Angeles, Calif.
According to Ornelas, if a client fits into one or more of the below categories, brokers and agents should be discussing Personal Umbrella insurance with them and asking questions to ensure greater protection.
1. Youthful driver
The presence of a youthful driver in the household is one of the main reasons for clients to purchase a Personal Umbrella policy. Young people, 15 to 19 years of age, represent seven percent of the population, and account for 11 percent of all crashes, amounting to over $10 billion in costs.2 In addition, 33 percent of deaths among 13 to 19-year-olds in 2010 occurred in motor vehicle crashes.3
“Many insureds are not aware of the need for a Personal Umbrella policy,” says Ornelas.
Since young drivers are more likely to cause an accident, the likelihood of a lawsuit from crash-related injuries is greater.
Under a Personal Umbrella policy, personal injury also includes coverage for libel and slander. This arises more with younger generations today as social media has the possibility to ruin a person’s reputation. However, these policies are starting to exclude cyber bullying, and in that case, a separate endorsement may be needed.
2. Successful individual
It is evident famous actors, musicians, local television anchors, politicians, and the like are more probable to be served a lawsuit, however, successful individuals have assets to protect as well.
Successful people are not immune to lawsuits, and those with a home and multiple vehicles need a Personal Umbrella policy to protect the assets they have worked so hard for in the event of a claim.
3. Dog owner
With 4.7 million dog bites annually, homeowners that own dogs are more susceptible to lawsuits if their dog injures someone. In fact, dog bites account for approximately one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims. If a client’s dog attacks someone, a Personal Umbrella insurance policy will provide coverage and defense costs beyond the limits of a homeowners policy, which would respond first. However, certain Personal Umbrella policies now exclude aggressive breed dogs, such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans, to name a few.
4. Owns a trampoline, pool, or tree house
Every year, there are more than 1 million trampoline-related injuries. In addition to trampolines, pools and tree houses also present numerous exposures. For instance, recently there was an injury related claim where an unattended child fell out of a tree house. Lawsuits involving children tend to result in higher settlements, making a Personal Umbrella policy an imperative.
5. Rides snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, or dirt bikes
Risk does not end at kids’ outdoor activities. Those who own adult ride-on machines including snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, and dirt bikes should also have added protection. If a client injures someone else, the Personal Umbrella policy will respond. Brokers should also inquire whether the client has a boat or even a small farm, as these have similar risk exposures.
“Many insureds are not aware of the need for a Personal Umbrella policy,” says Ornelas. However, lawsuits that exceed the liability limits on a standard homeowners policy have the ability to bankrupt a client. For a couple of hundred dollars a year, this can be prevented.