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Insurance Unlikely to Cover Cyber-Bullying
Online and text bullying by both children and adults are growing problems, as are lawsuits claiming that people have been harmed by the bullying. If you are the subject of such a lawsuit and the court decides against you, you could lose virtually everything. That’s because your liability insurance probably does not cover judgments for this kind of behavior.
As the incidences of online and cell phone bullying become more public, insurers are becoming increasingly likely to specifically exclude coverage for these kinds of suits. Although each insurer’s language is different, most will not cover liability for what you say on the Internet or via text if your intent is to be malicious or hurtful. And some won’t cover this liability, no matter what your intent.
In addition, many insurers will provide coverage for your defense only up until the point where it is clear that the claim is that you acted maliciously. At that point, the insurers may withdraw their defense coverage since they would not have to cover the loss if you were deemed responsible.
And, just as you can be liable if underage kids drink in your home and then cause personal injury or property damage after they leave your house, you can be liable for damages caused by your children when they make malicious and hurtful statements online or over the phone. As your kids prepare to go back to school, this is a good time to talk to them about how their actions can have a significant financial impact on you – and therefore on them. In the case of online bullying, your discussion should include warnings about the dangers of the Internet in general, as well as a conversation about bullying itself.
According to the experts, you should start the conversation about online benefits and dangers when your children are very young, and you should foster an open sense of communication in which your children feel they can come to you when they have questions or concerns.
Finally, it is not only children who say unkind or stupid things online or in their text messages. Be aware that the messages you send online or through your mobile phone could be seen by people you did not intend to see them or could be misinterpreted as something you did not mean, and you could find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
- Locate your computer in a public area rather than in your child’s room. That allows you to see what the child is viewing.
- Remind your children that things they say online or texts they send can be just as hurtful as things they say in person. Also explain that when they communicate online or in a text, the reader does not see things like facial expressions that might indicate that the writer is joking.
- Remind them that once they send a text or post a message online, they cannot take it back. And even if they send it to only one person or a few close friends, there are lots of ways that text or message can end up going to virtually everyone.
- Talk to your children about bullying, and explain that bullying online is at least as painful to the victim as bullying in person. In fact, since the reach of online bullying is so much greater, it can be even more painful. Remind them that some children have hurt or even killed themselves after being bullied online or by text message.
- Be a model for your children. If you say mean things about people or make fun of people, that sends the message that it is OK for them to do so.
We will be happy to talk with you about these aspects of your liability insurance or about any other coverage concern. Just contact us at 847-572-0800 or email@example.com .