January 11th, 2013
We all say stupid stuff from time to time. We say exactly the wrong thing. We hurt people’s feelings. We push buttons. Sometimes we even go so far as to say something so crazy it’s illegal -- that’s called slander.
So what if this happens inside your house? What if someone sues you for slander stemming from a conversation in your home -- will your homeowners insurance protect you from major financial damage? What about libel, will that be covered?
The short answer to all the queries above is no, unless you make two moves.
1) Sign a personal injury endorsement on your homeowners policy. You are covered this way, it is important to note, only if the act of slander and libel was unintentional. In other words, if you set out to write or say something antagonistic -- this is not the way to go. Any statement made in the course of business or performing ones profession i.e. freelance writing would be excluded
Additionally, personal injury coverage is an extension of liability coverage which is not a on-the-premises-only coverage. You may still be covered if the offending statements were made off site.
2) Take out an umbrella policy on top of your home insurance policy.
Umbrella coverage would need to be purchased after adding the personal injury endorsement onto the homeowners policy, since the homeowners policy coverage would apply first and the umbrella policy would only pay loss in excess. Also they would need to verify that the umbrella coverage does actually cover personal injury as not all do.
Umbrella liability actually covers a lot more than slander and libel; it can also provide financial protection against defamation of character, wrongful imprisonment, invasion of privacy and defamation of character taking place in your home. Such a policy can also help cover your defense costs in the case of a lawsuit.
If you do not actually own a home, you still need to purchase a renters policy (homeowners form 4 or HO4) to provide the underlying limits essentially the umbrella's deductible, which is usually $500K.
Also you should only purchase an umbrella policy if you have significant assets or income to protect. We don't recommend purchasing extra personal Injury or liability coverage just for the sake of it. The coverage provided by the homeowners and renters should be sufficient for many.
We’ll never be able to fully protect ourselves from saying or writing hurtful things to others. But through umbrella or personal injury endorsement policies, we can, however tenuously protect ourselves against such damages that take place within our homes.