Chances are, you or someone you know has been sued. With over 350,000 cases filed in 2012, lawyers are seeing a huge upsurge in civil suits. From bodily harm to libel, these lawsuits can cost you and your family millions. There are things you can do to protect yourself from these legal battles.
Whether your net worth is average, below average, or high, multi-million dollar lawsuits can happen to you. Cases are heard in court every day pertaining to automobile accidents, slip-and-fall claims, and even dog bite suits. While most individuals carry automobile insurance, if the accident requires lifelong care or results in a fatality, the expenses may very well extend over the insurance limits. Here are just a few examples of how a lawsuit can happen to you:
When these types of suits occur, the party at fault may have their wages garnished or be placed into a situation where they must sell assets in order to satisfy the judgment.
High net worth individuals, however, face a greater chance of being sued. With a larger bank account to draw from, people may see these families and individuals as prime targets. Even if a high net worth individual faces a group lawsuit, lawyers may target the high net worth individual due to the potential for a higher award.
1. Contact an insurance agency that specializes in umbrella or liability insurance. An insurance agency that is experienced in personal property and casual insurance is going to be a good resource. Most major banks and financial advisors will have insurance company recommendations. If you are a high net worth individual, it is important to find an insurance company that re-evaluates assets and lifestyle, so any changes in liability can be assessed and insured.
2. Read the fine print, and understand the details of each policy. Do not choose a policy based solely on the bottom-line cost. Many less expensive policies will not cover items like attorney fees, PR firm engagement, or witness fees. If you have an attorney, ask your attorney to be present during the insurance policy selection process to ensure that the policy covers the widest breadth of situations that could apply to you. An umbrella liability policy may be the optimal choice, as it offers higher limits than the typical policy.
3. Be sure that your insurance covers any gaps in existing policies. While you may currently possess automobile and home insurance, accidents outside of these places may not be covered. Also, if the damages are above the limits of the insurance policy, you may be liable for restitution. When choosing coverage, be familiar with your current policy limits, and choose an umbrella policy that picks up at the dollar amount that the auto or home insurance policy cuts off.
If you drive company cars or use company equipment, make sure that the umbrella policy covers these items. As an added measure of protection, verify that the policy will cover incidents that fall outside the current automobile and homeowners insurance. If you volunteer any portion of your time in an unpaid official capacity, check to make sure that the policy covers the actions you are involved in. If possible, see if your homeowners and automobile insurance policies, along with any other policies, can be bundled by one company. This will help you avoid confusion and keep your insurance companies from litigating against each other should a claim occur.
4. Always choose a policy based on a worse-case scenario. In the case of lifelong disability, a judgment may reach into the tens of millions. Your coverage limits should exceed this amount to cover attorney’s fees or other financial levies.
5. Protect yourself before an incident occurs. Do a safety check of your home and lifestyle, and note where safety measures should be implemented. If possible, have a safety expert visit your home to evaluate facets of your life that may expose you to liability suits. These may include boats, play equipment, trampolines, pets, ATVs, or swimming pools.
If your family employs the services of a nanny, contractor, housekeeper, or in-home nurse, have background checks run on each of these individuals. Protect children by being open and honest about the pitfalls of bullying and social media. With headlines being dominated by social media bullying, many of those individuals are turning their efforts to the courts for remediation. It’s important to warn children and teenagers to avoid posting anything that may be seen or construed as bullying.
If your lifestyle includes activities that may be deemed dangerous, such as extreme sports or watersports, you may want to employ a lawyer to draft up a liability release form to protect your family if a friend is injured during these activities.
With lawsuits on the rise, it’s increasingly important to invest some time in finding an insurance policy to protect your assets. Whether your family is average or has a high-net worth, injuries and lawsuits can happen to anyone.