Personal Liability

Many homeowners may be surprised to find that Part II of a standard homeowners' insurance policy protects against bodily injury and property damage caused by a family member. The comprehensive personal liability section of your homeowners' policy covers personal injury or property damage to others due to the negligence of anyone in the family, including pets. This coverage can range from $100,000 to $300,000 in value, and often includes coverage for medical expenses, damages, and legal fees up to your coverage limit. (If you need additional personal coverage, consider a personal umbrella policy, which can cover claims in excess of your basic homeowners' coverage or protect you against other liabilities, such as liability for libel or slander.)

Natural Disasters

Basic homeowners' coverage also covers damage from some natural disasters, although nearly all policies have a dwelling coverage limit of at least 80% of the replacement cost of the home. These are some natural occurrences covered by most homeowners' insurance policies:

  • Wind, Lightning, and Hail. Damage caused by winds associated with thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes, or by lightning or hail, is generally covered. If a tree on your property falls down and damages a neighbor's property, your homeowners' policy may pay to remove the debris and repair any damage caused by the falling tree.
  • Snow. If snow, sleet, or ice collects on your roof and causes it to collapse, your homeowners' policy will generally cover all necessary repairs.

Some weather-related risks and other natural disasters will most likely be excluded from your coverage:

  • Earthquake, Flood, and Sewer Backup. Damages caused by earthquake, flood, or sewer backup are not automatically covered by most homeowners' policies, although you may be able to add earthquake or sewer backup coverage to your policy by special endorsement. If your home is located in a declared flood zone, you may need an additional flood insurance policy backed by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to FEMA, a preferred risk policy costs a little over $100 and the average policy in a designated area costs a little more than $300 a year for about $100,000 of property coverage. In contrast, a disaster home loan for $50,000 can cost you more than $300 a month for 20 years.
  • Landslides, Mudslides, Tidal Waves, and Wave Damage. Like earthquakes, these hazards are generally limited to certain geographic areas. These are excluded from most homeowners' policies, but separate coverage may be available.

Additional Living Expenses

If your home is damaged to the point where you can no longer live there, your homeowners' policy may cover living expenses, such as hotel bills or apartment rent, up to a certain limit and for a certain time frame. If you are in this situation, remember to save all receipts for your expenses.

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