What You Need to Know About Liability Insurance and Social Media

From Instant Messenger to Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and more, social media has evolved over the years and new platforms continue to pop up all the time. These communication tools provide anyone a means to disseminate their opinions to the masses no matter their age or expertise. As fun and useful as they can be, these social media platforms also add potential liability exposures for you as a homeowner or as a business owner. Here’s what you need to know about liability insurance and social media in a few specific situations:

Scenario #1 – Personal Social Media is Used Harmfully Against Someone Else

Consider your personal household. Let us assume that you have children ages 9 through 17. Age makes a difference as to legal culpability. Somewhere around the age of 13, an individual is considered old enough to be responsible for their actions and speech. What that means is “the older the individual, the protection provided by an insurance policy can drastically diminish”.

Although the following example is different and is an offline interaction, it still illustrates the point. Years ago, there was a case where neighborhood children threw rocks on the aluminum roof of a hog barn. The rocks punctured the roof causing the roof to leak. The children were early teens, and so the parents’ homeowner policy would not pay for the damage caused by the children. The owner of the hog barn claimed the damage on his own insurance policy and had to pay his deductible.

Now, relate that back to social media. We all have heard and read the stories of teens and youth using social media in inappropriate ways against their peers. This could be anything from posting false information or rumors to communicating with a classmate or schoolmate in the form of threats or bullying.

Depending on the situation and the ages involved, you or your child could be held liable for harmful actions on social media, and your insurance policy may, or may not, respond. This type of liability exposure is why social media use of the people in your household is one of the home insurance considerations for multigenerational households.

Scenario #2 – Something Inappropriate Was Posted Via Business Social Media Profiles

On a business level, social media is used quite often. There may be a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Instagram profile, etc. for the company. Employees may be involved with the content of the page. The line where the employer could be held responsible for posts by their employees is somewhat gray.

If the posts are made on company time or from a company device, the employer could possibly be held liable for what is posted. It is good policy to insist that employees do not post anything on social media from company devices and/or while on company time. Or, if they are responsible for posting on company profiles, ensure there is a clear social media policy and review process in place to avoid issues.

How Do Liability Insurance and Social Media Issues Interact?

As related to insurance protection, what can be expected from the insurance policy? If there is any protection/coverage, it would be found in the liability portion of the policy. More specifically, it would fall under the “Personal Injury” section. However, most personal injury coverages respond to things such as “slander”, “wrongful eviction”, etc.

The question would be how social media would tie into these definitions. Personal liability is one of the types of liability coverage on a homeowner’s policy. But, it is very doubtful that your basic personal liability would respond in a social media case.

There is a possibility that an Umbrella Liability Policy could respond, but it would not begin to pay until the “underlying limit” had been reached. Most underlying limits are at least $250,000. That means you would be responsible for the first $250,000 of damages.

The surest protection you may be able to put in place is to insist, as best you can, with either your household members or employees, depending on the situation, that they do not post anything remotely harmful to anyone on social media.

If you wish to discuss this topic in more detail or are curious about the liability limits on your personal or business insurance policies, you may contact our agency at 800-537-6880 or 717-665-2283.

Disclaimer: Information and claims presented in this content are meant for informative, illustrative purposes and should not be considered legally binding.