Independent Insurance Agent and Risk Manager
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Six Good Reasons to Have a Personal Umbrella

Uncategorized / October 22, 2012

There is no question that the ownership and use of our autos present us with the greatest personal liability exposure. But our normal daily activities can expose us to the potential of a large liability claim that could threaten our personal assets.

One of the best ways to understand the need for a personal umbrella policy (PUP) is to review actual claim examples. Listed below are actual personal liability claims that illustrate the need for higher personal liability limits.

Loss #1

A couple hosted a pool party for their teenage children. They did not provide any alcohol, but it was brought by some of the guests and was available. After leaving the party, one of the guests was severely injured in an auto accident, and the injury was attributed to his consumption of alcohol. This case went to the Wisconsin Supreme Court which decided that anyone who sells or furnishes alcohol to a minor is responsible for the minor’s injuries as well as any injuries caused by the minor. The opinion of the court was that the homeowners should have prevented the consumption of alcohol by minors on their premises. Both the homeowners’ and personal umbrella policies responded to this claim.

Loss #2:

The insured hosted a party at his home. Among the guests was a family friend, who was also the insured’s financial advisor. The friend brought his wife, their 2-year-old child and their baby to the party. The insured gave them a jug of spring water to mix formula for the baby. The 2-year-old child also had a drink of the water. Shortly thereafter, both children became ill. The family left the party and took the children to the hospital. The hospital confiscated the water jug which was found to contain arsenic. An old label was found wrapped around the handle with the words “weed killer” printed on it. The insured had mistakenly given the jug, which was similar to the ones containing spring water, to the family. The baby died and the 2 year old survived after being in critical condition several days. The personal umbrella liability limit was paid.

Loss #3:

The insured’s 18-year-old son was driving his parents’ car to the store with his 19-year-old girlfriend. He left the roadway and hit a tree. The son told the police that another car cut him off, but there were no witnesses, and the girlfriend had no recollection of the accident. She was hospitalized for over a month with multiple fractures and internal injuries and received extensive physical therapy. The personal umbrella insurer settled with the girlfriend for the policy limit.

Loss #4:

An 18-year-old college student was struck by a fraternity paddle during initiation. He sustained facial fractures and blindness in his left eye. The fellow fraternity members and their families were sued. The court awarded $1,300,000.

Loss #5:

A 28-year-old engineer dove into a friend’s above-ground swimming pool, struck his head on the bottom and, as a result, became a quadriplegic. He sued both the homeowner and the pool manufacturer. The court found the homeowner to be 60 percent responsible and the pool manufacturer to be 40 percent responsible, and awarded $10,000,000.

Loss #6:

A babysitter left a 5-month-old infant unattended in a walker. The infant toppled the walker, struck her head on the floor and suffered brain damage. The parents of the infant sued the teenage babysitter and her parents. The court awarded the parents $11,000,000.

The above losses show the consequences of situations that can quickly exhaust the liability limits of the underlying policies.

Umbrella policies start at $150/yr for one home and two cars. so, for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day, most folks can purchase a personal umbrella policy with a limit of $1,000,000, possibly $2,000,000 or even $5,000,000.  Call us today to discuss your exposure and how we can mitigate your risk.

Used with permission from the IA&B. Jerry Milton, CIC, contributed this resource. The legal profession recognizes him as an expert on insurance coverages. He is also an education consultant for IA&B, working with CISR, CIC and on-demand CE programs.