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What is an Umbrella Insurance Policy

A Good Umbrella Protects You When It Rains Bad Luck

Jennie L. Phipps

An umbrella insurance policy provides an extra layer of protection beyond what your regular insurance policies for homeowners, auto, business, specialty—like boat and RV—provides. With these, you won’t have to pay out of pocket or, even worse, owe from your future income.

Anybody can be sued, but some people may be more likely to be sued than others—like people who own homes, have savings, drive nice cars, and possess toys like boats and RVs. Having the good things in life can make you an attractive target for lawsuits. Even just having the ability to acquire nice things can make you worth suing.

For example, I’m a 65-year-old widow with a condo in Florida, a house in New Orleans, two cars, a boat and an RV. I have the usual property and casualty insurance on all these things, but if I were sued because a guest slipped and fell in my condo, or I struck a motorcyclist with my RV, I could very likely face a big lawsuit.

Since I don’t want to see my retirement nest egg vanish because my insurance didn’t cover the entire cost of an expensive lawsuit, I own an umbrella insurance policy. For me, it’s only $187 a year, and well worth the peace of mind. My umbrella policy provides a multi-million dollar shelter from legal storms to help prevent financial disaster if I am unfortunate enough to be the target of a costly lawsuit.

Not familiar with the umbrella insurance concept? Read on.

How Much Umbrella Coverage Do You Need?

Umbrella policies start at $1 million in coverage and can go as high as $10 million or more. They take over when regular insurance policy protections are exhausted, so most insurers will insist that you buy regular policies with high limits—for example, an umbrella policy might require that you first have at least $250,000 in liability on your auto policy and $300,000 in liability on your homeowners policy.

Overall, an umbrella policy can be a real insurance bargain. The nonprofit Insurance Information Institute estimates that the first $1 million in umbrella coverage will cost $150 to $300 and the next million will cost about $75, with the cost dropping to $50 for every million in coverage after that.

When It Rains, It Pours

After you’ve determined that you need an umbrella policy, and before you buy, the next step is to figure out how big an umbrella you need. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) says that anyone with more than $300,000 in savings should consider an umbrella policy. It may also be wise to consider an umbrella, even if you have less in savings, if your money is tied up in real estate—or something else that is tangible. NAPFA recommends having at least $2 million in coverage for these reasons:

  • An estimated 13% of personal injury and liability awards and settlements are for at least $1 million.
  • If you have $1 million in assets and $1 million in coverage, a $2 million judgment will take everything you have.
  • A judgment for more than your net worth could wipe you out: Taxable investments and savings and the equity in your house also will likely be at risk. The court can also garnish 2.5% of your wages for the next 10 years. And, the court can take any current or future inheritance you may receive.

How big is too big an umbrella? Financial advisors say a personal judgment of greater than $5 million is unlikely for most people.

And, remember, personal umbrellas don’t cover businesses—even small, part-time ones—so consider acquiring business insurance if you have that risk.

How Do You Buy an Umbrella Policy?

The best way to purchase an umbrella policy is to buy all the underlying policies from the same, comprehensive insurance company. Not only are you more likely to get a better price, but also the insurer will work with you to make sure that all of your assets are covered under the umbrella.

This kind of cooperation can be important. For instance, I have a condo in Florida in a high-risk area. Some large insurers who offer condo coverage—including one I have done business with for years—won’t cover my condo because of weather risk. But because my large insurer covers my cars, my toys, and my house elsewhere, the knowledgeable agent was willing to work with me to find an alternative insurer whose policy for my condo would be covered by the umbrella his company provided. I’m a good customer and, in return, I get a good deal. I also get very valuable expert help and, overall, because my insurance is mostly with the same company, I pay a very pocketbook-friendly price for the whole package.

My umbrella policy also offers peace of mind when I volunteer in the community. I am a member of my condo board. While the board is covered by directors and officers liability insurance, and a law in Florida (and some other states) shields board members from lawsuits over issues that don’t involve fraud or self-serving deals, my personal umbrella protects me personally. For instance, if I inadvertently said something to a resident that he thought slandered him, my umbrella would offer protection if the suit got really ugly—and expensive. Different umbrella policies offer different coverage for volunteering, though. It pays to ask very specific questions if this is a concern for you.

Who Needs Umbrella Coverage?

Other lifestyle choices that make an umbrella policy particularly attractive include:

  • Frequent travel outside the U.S., and your regular insurance policy offers limited international liability coverage.
  • Owning a swimming pool or a trampoline, or having a dog that could bite someone. (Make sure the breed isn’t excluded from coverage.)
  • If I’m an occasional landlord — I rent my condo for a week or two — my personal umbrella provides some valuable protection if my tenant is injured or experiences a financial loss. More active landlords should consider a business policy.
  • Coaching kids’ sports. If someone gets hurt, you could be sued personally.
  • Participation in active sports that sometimes result in injury to others, such as hunting, surfing, motor sports and skiing.
  • Hobbies that involve reviewing products or businesses. (If you’re getting paid, that makes it a professional activity and your personal umbrella probably won’t provide coverage.)

What is Not Included Under Umbrella Coverage?

Finally, don’t expect your umbrella policy to do everything. Here are some things that umbrella policies don’t cover:

  • Your own injuries
  • Damage to your own belongings
  • Injuries or property for which your business is liable
  • Criminal acts

While umbrella policies aren’t perfect, they certainly can provide vital shelter when legal challenges and misfortune reign.

For more information or to receive a quote please visit our website or contact our customer service center at 800.423.0567.

Looking for more helpful tips for understanding the ins and outs of your home insurance? Find them here on our blog.

Learn about:

  • Equipment Breakdown Coverage, and tips to prevent equipment breakdown
  • Water Backup and Sump Pump Overflow Coverage, and tips for sump pump maintenance
  • Animal Damage and what your homeowners policy does and doesn’t cover
8 Responses to "A Good Umbrella Protects You When It Rains Bad Luck"
    • shakuntal gupta | December 5, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      please qote an umbrala policy
      for 500000.0
      and/or 1000000.0
      I am 77 year old
      Shakuntala Gupta

      • Extra Mile Staff | December 7, 2020 at 1:40 pm

        Sahkuntal – For home insurance questions and quoting, please contact our customer service center at 800.423.0567.

    • Sharon Knowles | December 4, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      I have vehicle insurance with Hartford. What I would like to discuss is what Hartford can do for me about issuing an Umbrella policy.

      I had a personal liability with Safeco, who canceled me six-months early (Dec 6), since I no longer had a vehicle policy with them. Unfortunately, I did not learn this until after the fact.

      I have 7 properties, all with separate insurance policies, which I’ve had for 30 years. Totally insurance is my highest expense, except property taxes.

      Can you help me?

      • Extra Mile Staff | December 4, 2020 at 3:55 pm

        Sharon – Thank you for being a customer with us. We appreciate your business! For your home insurance questions and quoting, please contact our customer service center at 800.423.0567. Someone would be happy to discuss your options with you.

    • Gary coplea | December 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

      My car insurance is with you. My homeowners insurance is with Farmers with 1000000 liability coverage. We cannot insur with Hartford because we rent it out for three months. Could you please give me a quote for 1,000,000 umbrella insurance. We have a vacation home in Mexico that we visit for half the time…would we be covered by this policy?
      Regards,
      Gary

      • Extra Mile Staff | December 4, 2020 at 1:16 pm

        Gary – Thank you for being a car insurance customer. We appreciate your business! For your home insurance questions and quoting, please contact our customer service center at 800.423.0567.

    • William Panetta | December 4, 2020 at 10:30 am

      Please provide pricing for $3 million and $5 million umbrella coverage. Please include coverage exceptions.

      • Extra Mile Staff | December 4, 2020 at 1:12 pm

        William – Thanks for your interest in quoting with us for homeowners insurance. Please visit our website to receive a quote or you can contact our customer service center at 800.423.0567 for more information.

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