Social media has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. What many people don't understand are the unique risks that come along with social networking. Anyone using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social networking site should exercise extreme caution in what they decide to say online.
As an example, in 2013 a teenager in Florida sued some of her classmates and their parents, accusing the classmates of bullying and humiliating her in a Facebook group. In another case from 2015, a 14-year-old California girl sued her classmates - and their parents - for setting up a fake Facebook account under her name and using it to bully her.
Whether or not the allegations are true, the teenagers and their parents in such instances will need to hire lawyers to defend these cases and money to pay for the possible judgments against them.
Many people believe a standard homeowner's insurance policy will cover these kinds of lawsuits. In fact, it probably will not provide the necessary coverage. A standard policy covers bodily injury or property damage done to someone else. It defines bodily injury as "sickness, harm or disease," and it defines property damage as "destruction of or injury to physical property.”
Neither definition includes publishing or saying something that injures another person's reputation. Hence, the policy is not likely to cover a Facebook post. Typically, a lawsuit resulting from a social media post would allege inflicting emotional distress, defamation or some similar charge.
Personal injury endorsement
One option is to add a personal injury endorsement to your policy. This broadens your homeowner's policy's definition of bodily injury to include personal injuries, such as false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation, invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution, wrongful eviction and wrongful entry.
Like the rest of your homeowner's coverages, the endorsement will probably exclude coverage for business-related activities, such as defaming a competitor on your business blog. It will also exclude coverage for claims resulting from intentional or illegal activities.
Personal umbrella policy
Another item to consider is a personal umbrella policy that provides excess liability protection when your home insurance coverage limits are depleted. An umbrella policy typically contains a personal injury clause that protects the homeowner from other circumstances, such as defamation, libel or slander lawsuits.
As we become more exposed to risk through social networking, keep in mind that you should choose you words carefully on any social networking site.