In a Social Media World, Are You Covered for Libel?
It is widely thought that a homeowner's insurance policy covers only incidents that physically occur in the home, which is partially correct. In fact, coverage can go beyond the home and can insure you for a personal injury claim, if the right conditions are in place. One may think of the term "personal injury" as requiring a physical injury suffered by another party. While a liability policy will likely apply to an incident of physical injury, personal injury is a broader concept. In the insurance world, personal injury can include harm caused by false arrest, detention, or imprisonment; malicious prosecution; wrongful eviction; slander; libel; and invasion of privacy. Basically, a personal injury policy can protect a homeowner and others covered under the policy against a claim for almost every injury that someone can experience without suffering any actual physical harm.
Given this broader definition of personal injury, would your policy cover a claim for accidentally saying something personally harmful on social media? It depends. Here are the most likely scenarios of what you may have:
It is best to call your agent to find out if your homeowner's or renter's policy has personal injury coverage. If not, for a minimal additional premium, you can add this important coverage. If you already have this coverage or you add it, make sure that it is listed on the coverage page of your policy and that the appropriate provision is in the policy. Many policies nowadays are sent via an electronic PDF file. It is easy to do a keyword search for "Personal Injury" to see if this is included and that the language further states that you have coverage. This is not something that you want to wait to add after you have been served with suit papers, because, at that point, it will be too late.