How to Choose Personal Liability Insurance

Three Parts:Determining Your Need for Personal Liability InsuranceDeciding How Much Insurance to BuyChoosing a Policy

Personal liability insurance, or "umbrella insurance," is insurance that helps to keep your assets intact if you are sued. If you are ever in a situation where someone else is injured through your fault, liability insurance can cover things such as medical bills, lost wages and rehabilitation. This insurance will kick in if your other policies, such as homeowners or auto insurance, are not sufficient, giving you added protection.

Part 1
Determining Your Need for Personal Liability Insurance

  1. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 1
    Learn what personal liability insurance covers. Before deciding to buy personal liability coverage, it is important to understand what it does. Personal liability coverage generally kicks in to cover any of the following, depending on your policy:[1]
    • Injury to others occurring in your home or at other properties you own (in excess of homeowners' insurance).
    • Injury to others resulting from automobile accidents (in excess of auto insurance)
    • Damage to the property of others.
    • Lawsuits in which you are found liable for libel, slander, malicious prosecution, false arrest or imprisonment, shock or mental anguish
    • Court fees for lawsuits brought against you, including frivolous ones
  2. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 2
    Find out what is excluded. There are some areas of liability that umbrella policies typically do NOT cover. It is important to understand what these are, as you may wish to consider a different type of policy if you need these types of coverage. These policies typically exclude:[2][3]
    • Malpractice lawsuits (i.e. for doctors)
    • Workers compensation (if one of your employees is injured on the job)
    • Business liability insurance (including for businesses run out of your home)
    • Damages caused intentionally.
  3. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 3
    Choose personal liability insurance if there are risk factors on your property. In deciding whether this type of insurance is right for you, it is wise to consider features of your property that might make a lawsuit against you more likely. Generally, one of these policies is an especially good idea:[4]
    • If you keep firearms in your home
    • If gardeners or housekeepers are frequently on your property
    • If you rent multiple properties to others
    • If your property includes a pool, hot tub, or trampoline[5]
  4. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 4
    Select personal liability insurance if your lifestyle presents additional risks. Likewise there are certain lifestyle choices that can make a lawsuit more probable. Common risks include the following:
    • Owning a dog (probably the biggest risk, as it can hurt both people and property)[6]
    • Having children visit your home often[7]
    • Hosting parties where alcohol is served.[8]
  5. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 5
    Protect your assets. Before deciding to buy one of these personal liability insurance policies, consider what assets you have that could be taken, should you be sued.
    • If your assets (such as your home and/or vehicles) aren't valued in excess of your current coverage under other policies, you probably don't need to bother. Generally, your insurance should be roughly equal to your net worth.[9] There is little sense protecting assets you don't have.
    • In short, if you don't really own anything this is probably not vital insurance to purchase.
  6. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 6
    Consult a financial advisor. If you are uncertain whether personal liability insurance is right for you, you may wish to consult with a financial advisor who can help you make this decisions.
    • A financial advisor can offer you insights about whether this, or some other type of policy, is the best fit for you, as well as how much insurance to buy.
    • Financial advisors known as Chartered Financial Consultants typically focus on insurance matters.[10]

Part 2
Deciding How Much Insurance to Buy

  1. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 7
    Review your current policies. If you've decided that personal liability insurance is for you (and many financial advisors believe it is for most people), you'll need to calculate how large of a policy to buy. Begin by determining how much you are covered for now.
    • Consider how much you will be covered for if you have an auto accident, and how much you will be covered for if an accident occurs at your home.
  2. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 8
    Calculate your net worth. Next, calculate your net worth. Your net worth is a measure of how much all your property is worth, minus money you owe to others. Consider the following:[11]
    • Cash in bank accounts
    • Stocks and bonds
    • Real estate
    • Cars, boats, and other vehicles
    • Any other highly valuable possessions (e.g. high-end entertainment systems, etc.)
    • Loans, credit cards, and other debt
  3. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 9
    Find the difference. Subtract the amount that your insurance would currently cover you for from your net worth. If someone sues you for everything you have, this the amount which currently isn't covered.[12]
    • While it is possible someone could try to sue you for more than that amount, it is uncommon. If you can purchase insurance that covers your entire net worth, you can consider most of your assets safe.

Part 3
Choosing a Policy

  1. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 10
    Look up policies from different companies. Before choosing a policy, you'll want to consider your options. Most people who buy umbrella insurance buy it from a company they already have a policy with, so your auto or homeowner's insurance company is a good place to start.[13].
    • Most insurance companies will include general descriptions of their policies on their websites. Pull up several for comparison.
  2. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 11
    Look into exclusions and riders. Next, consider what is and isn't included in the various companies' policies. Make sure that any possibilities important to you aren't excluded.[14]
    • For example, if you have a pool, be certain drownings aren't excluded.
    • Likewise, check to see if they allow riders for anything you might want to add on to the standard policy. For example, some companies allow riders for coverage of home businesses.[15]
  3. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 12
    Compare rates and deductibles. Next, as with any insurance policy, you'll want to compare the cost. How much will your premium be?[16] Generally speaking, you want to select a policy with the lowest premium and deductible you can.
    • You should be able to get up to a one million dollars in coverage for about 500 dollars a year.[17]
    • You should also look into your deductible. Since this insurance usually only kicks in after you have already exhausted the resources provided by other policies, you'll want as low deductible as possible, since you'll likely have already paid one if you are in a situation where you need to use your umbrella policy.
  4. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 13
    Assess company strengths and weaknesses. Finally, look into the companies themselves by exploring their websites and looking at independent ratings. Consider the following:
    • A large, well established company is usually a safer bet than a newer or smaller one.[18]
    • Look for a company with a good rating from independent ratings agencies (e.g. Moody's, Standard & Poor, etc.)[19]
    • A company should have a low rate of claim refusal and reputation for paying claims quickly.[20]
  5. Image titled Choose Personal Liability Insurance Step 14
    Purchase a policy. Contact the insurance you have chosen to discuss the policy you wish to purchase. Be sure to ask about any riders you are hoping to add and raise any other clarifying questions you might have.
    • Ask about payment options. The typical choices are to pay annually or monthly.[21] Some companies have other options as well.


  • Ideally, you should choose an insurance company that allows you to talk to a representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You never know when you'll need to use your insurance.
  • Read any policy carefully before signing and paying.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (18)

Article Info

Categories: Insurance