The Basics of How Umbrella Insurance Works

By Jamie Cattanach · September 21, 2023 · 7 minute read

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The Basics of How Umbrella Insurance Works

Umbrella insurance is a type of insurance policy that extends the personal liability coverage you probably already have through your homeowners or auto insurance. In other words, it’s a policy that helps protect your assets if you ever get sued for a whole lot of money.

Although most people won’t face a multi-million dollar lawsuit in their lifetimes, if you are the unlucky exception, an umbrella policy can help you avoid financial ruin. This is a relatively affordable kind of insurance coverage, too — although there are some additional costs it can require, which we’ll get into below.

Here’s what you need to know about umbrella insurance and how to decide if it’s right for you.

What Is Umbrella Insurance?

Certain types of insurance include liability coverage, which is insurance coverage that protects your finances and assets in case you get sued. You likely already have this kind of coverage, to some extent, through your homeowners or car insurance policy.

An umbrella insurance policy adds additional liability coverage on top of whatever coverages you might already have. That can be a lifesaver if you get sued for an amount of money large enough to exceed your existing liability insurance.

For example, say your auto insurance covers $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person and up to $50,000 in bodily injury liability per accident. It also covers up to $20,000 in property damage liability per accident. In total, you have a total of up to $70,000 per accident in coverage.

If you get into a fender bender, or even a moderately severe collision, that coverage might be sufficient. But say you get into a catastrophic accident that involves several cars and more than two people. That $70,000 isn’t going to be enough to cover multiple totaled vehicles or the medical bills for several hospital stays. If you’re sued for those losses and damages, you could lose your retirement savings, liquid savings and checking accounts, and potentially even your home.

If you have an umbrella insurance policy, that’s when it would kick in to cover the overage that your auto insurance policy doesn’t meet. Which is to say: umbrella insurance, as its name suggests, can protect you from a seriously rainy day.

But as with all insurance policies, it’s important to read the fine print.

💡 Quick Tip: Saving money on your fixed costs isn’t always easy. One exception is auto insurance. Shopping around for a better deal really can pay off.

What Does Umbrella Insurance Cover — or Not?

Although umbrella insurance is specifically meant to extend your existing liability coverages, it’s important to understand that these policies don’t cover everything. (Notably, umbrella insurance does not cover your personal property. It’s all about making sure your assets are covered when other people incur losses and damages.)

Although it’s always important to consult the specifics of the policy you’re considering for the full details, here’s a basic breakdown of what umbrella insurance typically does and does not cover.

What Umbrella Insurance Generally Covers

The good thing about umbrella coverage is that it’s an inclusive policy rather than an exclusive one. That means that instead of listing named perils, the way homeowners insurance does, umbrella insurance covers most liabilities with certain named exceptions.

But again, umbrella insurance is all about protecting you from the financial fallout of a lawsuit. It isn’t about protecting your physical home, car, or person from physical dangers. That’s why you still need homeowners, auto, and health insurance products.

Generally speaking, umbrella insurance covers liabilities related to:

•   Injuries

•   Property damage

•   Lawsuits

•   Other personal liability situations

Additionally, umbrella insurance usually extends to household members beyond you, the policyholder, and the incident doesn’t necessarily have to involve your personal property or vehicle to be eligible for umbrella coverage. Your umbrella policy might also cover you worldwide, with some exceptions. Again, consult your individual plan paperwork or insurance representative for full details.

What Umbrella Insurance Does Not Cover

Umbrella insurance is broad and inclusive, but it doesn’t cover every liability. Notable exceptions include:

•   Injuries sustained by you or your family or damages to your own property

•   Intentional actions that result in losses or damages (for example, if you get into a fight and punch somebody in the face)

•   Actions classified as criminal

•   Liabilities you agreed to assume in a contract you signed

•   Liabilities you incurred in your business or professional life. These require business liability insurance, which is a separate product

•   Liabilities caused by war or armed conflicts

What About Deductibles?

It’s also important to understand that even with umbrella insurance, you might still be responsible for paying a deductible when a claim is filed, whether it’s through the underlying insurance policy or the umbrella policy itself.

For example, imagine someone is injured during a party you throw in your home and they sue you for their medical costs and lost wages. Say your homeowners insurance policy covers up to $100,000 in personal liability, but your guest wins a lawsuit to the tune of $500,000.

If your homeowners insurance deductible is $1,000, you’ll need to pay that amount out of pocket before the homeowners coverage kicks in to pay for $99,000 toward the judgment. Then, your umbrella insurance would pay the additional $400,000, as well as any separate legal expenses related to the court proceedings.

Even if your underlying insurance doesn’t have a deductible, or if you use your umbrella policy to pay for a liability that other insurance policies don’t cover, you’d probably still be responsible for some of the cost. You’d likely be asked to pay a self-insured retention before the umbrella policy kicked in to cover the rest of the claim.

How Much Does Umbrella Insurance Cost?

Umbrella insurance is a relatively affordable policy, which makes it an attractive option for those seeking peace of mind in a “lawsuit happy” world. A $1 million umbrella policy costs about $150 to $300 per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute, and you can purchase even more coverage than that for less than $100 per million.

That said, because their products kick in after regular insurance is used, most umbrella insurers will require you to carry a decent amount of coverage already through your baseline policies. You’ll likely need to buy a minimum of $250,000 in liability insurance on your auto policy and $300,000 in liability insurance on your homeowners policy in order to qualify, which means you’ll probably be spending more on insurance overall.

💡 Quick Tip: Next time you review your budget, consider making room for additional insurance coverage. Think of it as an investment that can help protect you from a major financial loss.

Is It Worth Having Umbrella Insurance?

Learning how umbrella policies work is one thing. But how do you decide whether or not you need this coverage?

At the end of the day, as with so many financial matters, it comes down to your personal choice and level of risk tolerance. After all, anyone can get sued. That said, there are some people who are at higher risk of getting sued than others.

For example, if you regularly have large, raucous gatherings on property you own, you run a decent risk of someone getting injured, which could result in serious medical bills. Ditto if your home has a trampoline or pool. If you’re the owner of a dog or the parent of a teenage driver, you might consider umbrella insurance in case of accidental damages. Celebrities and public figures also often take out umbrella policies.

The Takeaway

Umbrella insurance is an extended liability insurance product that can help protect you in case of a lawsuit. Depending on how likely you are to be sued and your level of risk aversion, you may want to add umbrella insurance to your list of coverages. It’s important to remember, however, that umbrella insurance doesn’t cover all contingencies. And whether or not you take out an umbrella insurance policy, you need basic insurance products like homeowners, auto, and renters insurance.

When the unexpected happens, it’s good to know you have a plan to protect your loved ones and your finances. SoFi has teamed up with some of the best insurance companies in the industry to provide members with fast, easy, and reliable insurance.

Find affordable auto, life, homeowners, and renters insurance with SoFi Protect.

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