First of all, what is an umbrella insurance?
An umbrella insurance policy is extra liability insurance coverage that goes beyond the limits of the insured's homeowners, auto or watercraft insurance. It provides an additional layer of security to those who are at risk of being sued for damages to other people's property or injuries caused to others in an accident. It also protects against libel, vandalism, slander, and invasion of privacy.- Investopedia
But I do not agree with the following …
The added coverage provided by an umbrella insurance policy is most useful to high net worth individuals who own a lot of assets or very expensive assets and are at significant risk of being sued.
After all, a sizable judgement can claim not only your existing assets, but also your future earnings.
In order to purchase an umbrella policy, you’re required to have $300K liability coverage in your auto and home insurance. You may think that a $300K settlement is rare, but in fact, it may not be as rare as you think. Here are some examples of umbrella insurance claims.
Let’s be clear. You do not want to be under uninsured when it comes to personal liability coverage. A serious injury involving significant lost wages and/or lifetime medical care can lead to a catastrophic settlement.
For our family, we choose to have umbrella coverage for a number of reasons.
#1 Liability coverage Lawsuit seems to be in everyone’s mind when it comes to liability. My friend told me a story. She was babysitting two 5 years old boys in a play date. One of them misfired a toy gun and hit the other’s face. The other boy immediately said, “you’re lucky that you hit my face. If you hit my eyes, I will sue you”. Seriously, that’s a 5 years old!!
#2 Do you drive a car? From the insurance perspective, chances of having claims filed against auto insurance are a lot higher than home insurances. After all, auto vehicles are not a stationary objects and they can be operated at certain speeds, so that totally makes sense. Our umbrella insurance covers all 3 of our cars, our home and our rentals. But if you look closely at the breakdown of the coverage, each additional car increases our premium while our homes and rentals basically are free-riders in the policy.
#3 Do you have a rental? When we started out having rentals, we would like to set up an LLC to host all of them. I do believe it is a good practice to have an LLC especially if you plan to have multiple rentals under your belt. Due to timings and loan complications, we ended up purchasing the rentals under our own names. Nevertheless, since we do not have the LLC to separate our rentals from our personal assets, we have the umbrella policy to protect ourselves. Is this the best practice? It may not be. But we are comfortable with this level of protection at this moment. After all, an LLC is not going to protect your asset absolutely as the judge can also pierce the veil of LLC during litigation.
#4 Do you have a family depending on you financially? When it comes to settlement over a lawsuit, not only your present asset, your future earning is also at stake. Imagine, you receive a judgement of $750K, and your insurance is maxed out at $250K. You have to cover the remaining $500K, and your future earnings can also be garnished. In this case, your spouse and kids would be the collateral damage in the lawsuit.
#5 Do you have kids? When you have kids, you may be asked to chaperon kids for field trips. Should an unfortunate accident happen, you may be charged with negligence. What if your little one’s BFF accidentally gets injured when coming over for a play date? Yup, most of us can assume that some bruises or even broken arms are parts of normal childhoods. But do the parents of the injured kid think the same way?
#6 Umbrella insurance is actually not that expensive. An umbrella insurance covering two cars and one house with a payout of $1M costs around $150 to $300 annually. For us, we believe it is money well spent.
#7 Legal defense cost When it comes to any sort of lawsuit, the legal fees can be very expensive. Not only that, for most of us who do not have any experience dealing with law firms, finding the right lawyer can also be a daunting task as well. If you have the insurance company liable for the potential settlement, it is simply its best interest to defend you. In addition, if you’re sued, your umbrella policy will cover the defenses cost, regardless if it is your fault or not. On top of that, the defenses fee is in addition to the limit in your liability coverage.
The Final Verdict
Ultimately, it comes down to this final reason for having the umbrella insurance.
#8 Peace of mind We value the peace of mind knowing that we are adequately covered in case we run into unfortunate circumstances. It provides a safety net for our family. For some families, considering the unlikelihood of filing a claim in the umbrella insurance, they may dismiss the idea of having one right away. For us, we always try to prepare for the worst, so the benefits of the umbrella policy outweighs the cost.
And, one last reason which does not apply to us, but apply to a lot of families …
#9 Do you have a dog? If your dog accidentally hurts someone, you may face a lawsuit. Your dog may be really well trained, but accidents happen all the time. And should you take the chance? By the way, this reason is applicable to all kinds of pets that can potentially cause harm to others.