What if I Expose Someone to the Coronavirus?

23 Apr

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many people are spending much more time at home, working from their home office or sheltering in place. One issue that could crop up over the duration of the virus is liability issues and whether or not your homeowners insurance will cover various liability issues. 

Let’s have a quick look at what impacts the virus could have on your liability coverage and what should be covered and what isn’t:

Personal Property Coverage

Your house and personal property cannot catch the coronavirus, so coverage is not impacted at all. If your home or personal property is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril, your insurance will step up to make you whole, up to your coverage limits. 

The claim process may be a bit different during the crisis, relying more on videos and photos to document the damage as well as an online or app claim experience for most minor claims. A major claim may still require a visit from an adjuster. Your insurance company should be able to guide you through their updated process when you call in your claim. 

If you have a vacation property or other rental property that you carry additional home sharing coverage on, you may want to suspend that coverage until short-term renting is allowed again. While it varies by state and even county, many local officials have banned short term rentals during the pandemic. Contact your insurer to see if it is possible to pause this coverage for now. 

Personal Liability Coverage

This part of your homeowners insurance will help cover medical and legal costs if a guest is injured on your property or someone from your household damages another person’s property. This coverage should continue to step up and cover this type of damage during the pandemic. 

This insurance is key right now as more and more people are stuck in their homes and neighborhoods. Kids that would normally be at school may be wandering around the neighborhood and could make their way onto your property. If you have a pool or trampoline on your property it is important to make sure they are secured and discourage any neighborhood children from using them. In most cases, you will be responsible for injuries regardless of whether or not you gave them permission to use them. 

Dog bites also fall under this coverage and there can be an increased risk as homebound neighbors take additional walks with or without their own dogs. If your dog bites a neighbor it could lead to medical bills or even a lawsuit, this insurance will cover those types of expenses. 

You should be carrying at least $300,000 in liability coverage and most experts recommend upping that to $500,000 if you have significant assets. 

What if I Expose Someone to the Virus?

If you have people over to your home (you shouldn’t right now) or a business colleague and they end up sick because you have exposed them (assuming you didn’t know you had the virus) it is possible you could be sued. Would your homeowners insurance cover the resulting medical or legal bills? 

The answer is complicated and not exactly definitive. 

The majority of homeowner policies have a communicable disease exclusion, which would rule out any claims related to coronavirus. In this case, the answer would be no, you are on your own for any legal or medical bills that would crop up.

However, not all policies have this exclusion. For these policies a number of court decisions have determined that the insurer should cover the negligent transmission of and exposure to similarly communicable diseases. All of this means that if your policy does cover communicable diseases, you should be covered.

All homeowners insurance policies do have an exclusion for intentional acts which means that if it is determined that you intentionally exposed or infected another person with the coronavirus there would be no coverage. 

Home Business Equipment

Working from home can be convenient (and the only option for some these days) but it can have insurance ramifications. 

Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover business property but it is often capped at around $1,500 so if you have moved your entire office into your home, you may be underinsured. Contact your insurance company to see if you can add a home business endorsement or up your coverage limits for business property.

Consider an Umbrella Policy

During these uncertain times, it may be prudent to consider upping your liability coverage and an umbrella policy can help you achieve that goal. Umbrella policies up your liability coverage and kick kin when the limits of your homeowner policy have been reached. They are sold in $1million increments and are very affordable. Prices vary depending on your specific circumstances but a $1million in coverage should run between $200 and $300 a year. 

Tags: , , , , ,