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It's impossible to predict whether you might lose a lawsuit resulting from a car accident or an accident on your property. Nor is it possible to predict the amount that might be awarded to the winning party, an amount that you would be responsible for paying. To protect yourself against the possibility of devastating financial loss from these unforeseen events, you may want to purchase an umbrella policy.

What Is an Umbrella Policy?
An umbrella policy protects your existing personal assets and future personal assets (like wages, your inheritance or that lottery you're planning to win) against the cost of losing a lawsuit over a car accident or an accident on your property. If you were to lose such a lawsuit, you would likely have to pay the winning party for costs such as medical expenses and lost wages, which can quickly become very expensive.

You don't have to be wealthy to need an umbrella policy - even if you don't have any assets, your wages can be garnished.

An umbrella policy picks up where your auto and homeowners insurancepolicies leave off. It has a high deductible because the deductible is designed to be met by your other policies. Expect to pay around a few hundred dollars a year for this coverage.

What It Covers

An umbrella policy provides excess coverage above and beyond what is provided by your homeowners and auto insurance policies. As an example, let's say your auto insurance pays $300,000 of medical expenses per accident and your umbrella policy is for $1 million. If you are sued for $900,000, your auto insurance would pay $300,000 of the damages and your umbrella policy would pay the remaining $600,000. Umbrella policies usually provide roughly $1 million to $5 million of additional coverage, and it is possible to get more if you have lots of assets to protect.

What about the legal expenses you'll incur if you're sued? With umbrella policies, legal expenses are covered on top of the policy amount. The policy may also pay you if your appearance at legal proceedings causes you to lose pay from work (for example, if you are an hourly employee or if you don't have any personal or vacation days available). Since the insurance company's money is at risk when you're sued, it'll want to protect that money with its own legal team, possibly a better legal team than you could afford on your own.

In addition to covering you for accidents on your property or car accidents you are found to be at fault for, an umbrella policy can also protect your dependentchildren (for example, if your daughter causes a car accident), any accidents caused by you or your dependent children while operating a watercraft, accidents that occur on rental property you own and personal injury lawsuits arising from slander, libel, defamation of character, false arrest, detention or imprisonment, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, shock/mental anguish and possibly more. Be sure to consult your specific policy for details.

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Posted 8:10 AM  View Comments

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