Social media has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. What many people don’t understand are the unique risks that come along with social networking. Your NY homeowners insurance policy may not provide the protection you need to protect against a “personal injury” lawsuit stemming from online activities.
Anyone using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social networking site should exercise extreme caution in what they decide to say online.
As an example, in 2013 a teenager in Florida sued some of her classmates and their parents, accusing the classmates of bullying and humiliating her in a Facebook group. In another case from 2015, a 14-year-old California girl sued her classmates – and their parents – for setting up a fake Facebook account under her name and using it to bully her.
Whether or not the allegations are true, the teenagers and their parents in such instances will need to hire lawyers to defend these cases and money to pay for the possible judgments against them.
Many people believe a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will cover these kinds of lawsuits. In fact, it probably will not provide the necessary coverage.
A standard NY home insurance policy covers bodily injury or property damage done to someone else. It defines bodily injury as “sickness, harm or disease,” and it defines property damage as “destruction of or injury to physical property.”
Neither definition includes publishing or saying something that injures another person’s reputation. Hence, the policy is not likely to cover a Facebook post. Typically, a lawsuit resulting from a social media post would allege inflicting emotional distress, defamation or some similar charge.
Personal umbrella policy
A good source to consider for extra coverage is a NY personal umbrella policy. This kind of policy provides additional insurance in circumstances where a loss has depleted the amounts of liability insurance offered under a homeowner’s policy.
But, the policies also extend coverage where a homeowner’s policy may not. An umbrella policy typically contains a personal injury clause that protects the homeowner from other circumstances, such as defamation, libel or slander lawsuits.
Umbrella policies usually have a deductible of $250 to $500, but that’s a small price to pay for avoiding financial devastation.
Personal injury endorsement
The other option is to buy a personal injury endorsement. This policy addition broadens your homeowner’s policy’s definition of bodily injury to include personal injuries, such as false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation, invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution, wrongful eviction and wrongful entry.
Like the rest of your NY homeowner’s coverages, the endorsement will probably exclude coverage for business-related activities, such as defaming a competitor on your business blog. It will also exclude coverage for claims resulting from and intentional or illegal activities.
As we become more exposed to risk through social networking, keep in mind that you should choose you words carefully on any social networking site.
Additionally, if you do not already have an umbrella policy, call us to see if it would be a good match for you.