Cyber Bullying by teens and preteens is on the rise in the US. Cyber-bullying is hostile online behavior used to harass, defame, embarrass, threaten and isolate another person. Usually, cyberbullying occurs over social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
As discussed in a prior article, parents may be held civilly liable for their children’s cyberbullying.
If you are sued for your minor’s misuse of the internet where can you turn for help? You may be surprised to learn that claims for cyber-bullying may be covered under a homeowners’ insurance policy.
Generally speaking, a homeowner’s standard personal liability insurance protects insureds and covered family members against lawsuits including liability for bodily injury caused by an occurrence or accident as defined by the policy.
Some homeowners policies provide additional coverage for lawsuits alleging libel, slander, mental anguish, and invasion of privacy. This coverage usually applies to online and electronic publications and may cover a claim for cyberbullying depending on the circumstances.
As discussed in Can Parents be Held Civilly Liable for their Child’s Cyberbullying? claims for cyberbullying often include a cause of action for negligent entrustment against the parent of the minor. Some homeowners’ insurance policies expressly exclude coverage for bodily injury associated with negligent supervision. Courts have found that insurance policies that do not contain this exclusion have assumed the risks associated with negligent supervision claims.
However, most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover claims for intentionally perpetrated harm. An insurer may try to avoid coverage for cyberbullying claims because the online conduct was intentional. How an intentional act is defined varies from policy to policy. Some policies exclude expected and intended harm. Other policies exclude harm even if it is different in kind, quality, or degree than expected, or if the harm is sustained by a different person than intended. Thus, your policy may well cover bodily injury resulting from unintended results of an intentional act. You should carefully read each provision of your policy to see what coverage is provided.
If someone makes a cyberbullying claim against you or a family member you should immediately notify your insurer. Failure to timely notify the insurer may result in waiver of coverage. If the claim is covered, insurance will pay defense costs and afford a defined level of protection against damages that may be awarded against you. If your homeowner’s insurer denies coverage, you should consult an attorney who can investigate whether coverage was wrongfully denied.
For a free and friendly no obligation consultation, call Brent Wieand, an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer that works on a contingency fee at 1-800-481-5206.
Brent practices throughout all of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is proud to serve Southeastern Pennsylvania including Berks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties, as well as the New Jersey areas of Pennsauken, Gloucester and Camden NJ.