College has become an increasingly important standard in our society: an associates or bachelors degree has become the de facto minimum requirement for any decent job to even consider interviewing someone.
It would be foolhardy to assume the risks of college today are similar to that of 50, 30, or even 10 years ago. Increased workload and debt coupled with more access to alcohol and drugs, many of which were unheard of or unavailable before the 1990s, has changed the experience by increasing the amount of focus young people need to succeed. This is in addition to a higher number of reported sexual and violent assaults.
The effects of all of these changes from economic, moral, and safety paradigms have been well documented and fleshed out in various sources nationally. What I want to explore today is how it affects your home’s liability when your child is off at college.
The Atlantic has an exhaustive report detailing the rise and changes of fraternities in the collegiate sphere. Most notably, for my purposes, they write of how fraternities and sororities are largely self-insured because no major insurance company will cover them. In this article, a top fraternal plaintiff attorney, the one who prosecutes fraternities and represents their victims, told The Atlantic this and they expanded upon it:
“‘I’ve recovered millions and millions of dollars from homeowners’ policies,’ a top fraternal plaintiff’s attorney told me. For that is how many of the claims against boys who violate the strict policies are paid: from their parents’ homeowners’ insurance. As for the exorbitant cost of providing the young man with a legal defense for the civil case (in which, of course, there are no public defenders), that is money he and his parents are going to have to scramble to come up with, perhaps transforming the family home into an ATM to do it. The financial consequences of fraternity membership can be devastating, and they devolve not on the 18-year old “man” but on his planning-for-retirement parents.”
My entire point is this: When your kids are off in college they are in a newfound world of freedom and experiment. They will take chances and actions which are not only newfound, but societally pressed upon them and expected of them. This is a risk for not only their injury, but inadvertent injury to someone else. The mere fact of passing along a beer or a cigarette, or even a few careless words, opens your family up to a lawsuit if something goes wrong.
If something goes wrong and you’re sued which, let’s be honest, is likely if something happens, your homeowner’s insurance line of liability is what would be tapped for any settlement if you were found guilty. Most of these only go up to $100,000 or $300,000, not nearly enough for many larger or even mid-sized settlements.
This is where a personal umbrella policy would protect your family and assets. With coverage starting at $1,000,000 (yes, million) for often as little as $30 a year, it’s an easy choice to make to protect your family.
When your personal liability in your homeowner’s isn’t enough, the umbrella will cover you. In addition to your personal liability for home, it extends over your auto and any non-business incident you may be found liable for. Of course, coverage depends on your policy, so you’ll want to look at your policy back and consult your agent for exactly what is covered.