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What is umbrella insurance and why do I need it?

Umbrella liability insurance (ULI) provides additional liability coverage in excess of the liability coverage provided by other insurance policies, such as homeowners, renters, and auto insurance. By providing liability protection above and beyond these basic coverages, ULI can protect you against the catastrophic losses that can occur if you are sued. Although ULI can be purchased as a separate policy, your insurer will require that you have basic liability coverage (i.e., homeowners/renters insurance, auto insurance, or both) before you can purchase an umbrella liability policy.

A typical umbrella liability policy provides protection, up to the coverage limits specified in the policy, for vehicle-related liabilities above your basic auto policy; for claims of bodily injuries or property damage caused by you or members of your household; for incidents that occur on or off your property; for non-business-related personal injury claims, such as slander, libel, wrongful eviction, and false arrest; and for legal defense costs for a covered loss, including lawyers' fees and associated court costs.

Policy exclusions vary from one insurer to another, but typically, basic umbrella liability insurance doesn't cover intentional damage caused by you or a member of your family or household; damages arising out of business or professional pursuits; liability that you accept under the terms of a contract or agreement; liability related to the ownership, maintenance, and use of aircraft, nontraditional watercraft (e.g., jet skis), and most recreational vehicles; damage to property owned, used, or maintained by you; damage covered under a workers' compensation policy; and liability arising as a result of war or insurrection.

How much liability insurance do you need? A large judgment against you could easily wipe out your assets and put your future earnings in jeopardy. That's why you should also consider factors such as how often you have guests in your home, whether you operate a home-based business, how much you drive, whether you have teenage drivers in your home, and whether your lifestyle gives the impression that you have "deep pockets." Your insurance professional can help you determine how much coverage you need.

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