Bruce Sackrison

Bruce Sackrison is a Napa Valley Register columnist who will write about property and casualty insurance matters.

Insurance covers more than your property. It also protects your assets when you are blamed for a loss.

Last week, we looked at Additional Living Expense coverage.

This week, we will conclude our alphabet soup series of homeowners’ coverages by talking about liability and guest medical coverage.

Liability and Coverage E: The story of Bob, Sue, and the Perfect Storm.

Bob and Sue were careful. All the time. So, they never thought about liability coverage. After all, what could possibly happen?

That was until the Perfect Storm struck.

That storm, and that day, changed everyone’s life.

The highest winds anyone had seen in years hit hard on that day. The old tree at the edge of Bob and Sue’s property just couldn’t take another pounding.

With one big gust, it toppled over — right onto Dave’s home next door.

That was bad enough, but worse, because it crashed through the guest bedroom window where Dave’s elderly grandmother was sleeping.

She was badly injured. Her recovery took weeks, and she continued having nightmares about the event for months.

Dave blamed Bob and Sue for not taking care of the old tree near the property line. It should have been cut down years ago, or so he alleged in his lawsuit.

Suddenly, the words “personal injury” and “pain and suffering” became important.

And suddenly, this question became very important: “How much liability coverage do we have?”

You can’t foresee everything.

No matter how careful you are, you can be held legally responsible for things that can get very expensive. Here are just a few:

That small dog that never bit anyone... bit someone.

That really safe lawnmower found a rock and hurled it through your neighbor’s window.

That hole you never saw in your yard... the neighbor twisted their ankle in it.

Even away from home, you can need your liability insurance. “Oops, I’m sorry I just bumped into you and knocked you down.”

That “oops” can end up in court if someone is seriously injured.

Small accidents and Coverage F: Guest Medical to the rescue!

Picture this: Your good friend comes over to help you slice vegetables for your party tonight. You reach behind her for something on the counter, and accidentally bump her. Now, instead of slicing vegetables, she slices her finger.

You rush her to the emergency room. A few stiches later, she’s “right as rain.”

She’s not upset at you (accidents happen after all, right?)

But, she has a large deductible on her medical insurance. She’s out of pocket for the trip to the ER.

Enter the “we still get to be friends” coverage, Guest Medical.

Insurance companies see the need for smaller claims to be settled without assigning blame or filing lawsuits. This situation would fall into that category.

It’s usually limited to a small amount, so you should check your policy to see your limits of coverage.

Do you have enough liability coverage?

Many people don’t. That’s a simple and sad fact. What’s sadder is that the cost to increase your liability coverage is usually far less than you think.

Plus, you can often add an Umbrella Policy on top of your homeowners policy for an affordable rate.

An umbrella policy is usually sold in $1 million increments. It extends your liability protection to match your assets and future earnings potential.

If you haven’t reviewed your liability needs in a while, call your local agent for a review. They can help you review your assets and potential risk, and make sure that you don’t come up short at claim time.

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Bruce Sackrison is an insurance property and casualty broker affiliated with Professional Insurance Associates. He is at 707-931-0186 or bruces@sackifs.com.