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Liable For Online Reviews

Are you liable for online reviews?

In today’s highly connected world everyone is a critic, from posting your reviews on Yelp, Google, Amazon, or any other forum. It’s fairly easy to voice your opinion when you can do it essentially anonymous on the internet. You can review local businesses, crafts you found on Etsy, and car manufacturers. Pretty much anything now a days has a website or three that allows you share your opinion. For many people, these online rating forums provides an atmosphere to speak more openly, or even outrageously.

As a business owner these online reviews will affect you, and you should be concerned with how you are rated. In a 2012 Nielsen study it was concluded that online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising, next to word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family. More than 70 percent of global consumers surveyed indicated that they trust online ratings, and this percentage seems to keep growing each year.

Why you should be cautious with online reviews

Before you post your opinions online, remember that there are real risks to being an online critic. You are certainly allowed to express your opinions online or by word-of-mouth, but it’s false allegations that can get you into trouble. If you’re sharing a particularly negative review about a business, this could hurt the business financially, and they could come after you for defamation. This also applies if you have children in the household sharing reviews, you are legally liable for their actions, so keep a close eye on them.

If you currently have a homeowner’s, tenant’s, or auto policy there is a curtain level of liability protection included, however this protection does not extend to defamation (libel and slander). That means if you are found guilty of harming someones reputation, you could be paying damages out of pocket.

In Steps the Umbrella policy

If you are a frequent online critic, it may be worth considering purchasing a umbrella policy. They typically won’t cost you more than $25/month and can give you the protection you need in the event of a libel and slander lawsuit. Keeping in mind that an umbrella policy doesn’t give you the freedom to write outrageous reviews on purpose. Deliberate defamation to a business is not something insurance will cover.

Types of coverage covered by an umbrella policy include the following:

Bodily Injury – If you injure someone in a car accident and the medical bills exceed the limits of your auto insurance, an umbrella policy picks up the tab.

Property Damage – If your teenager crashes the family car through a fence and into the side of your neighbor’s house, an umbrella insurance policy can pay for any damage beyond the limits of your auto insurance.

Legal Fees –  It will take care of your legal fees and court costs in a lawsuit. Lawyers are expensive, and the cost of a major lawsuit could force you into settling out of court, even if you know you’re not really at fault. With an umbrella policy, you know you can afford a good lawyer to protect your assets.

Other Coverages – An umbrella insurance policy protects you if you’re sued for libel or slander – written or spoken words that cause injury to someone else. It can also protect you against suits for false arrest, malicious prosecution, violation of privacy, and a variety of other civil charges.

To learn more about how a umbrella policy could help you, please contact your HMS broker. We can write umbrella policies by themselves, or simply endorse them onto your current homeowner’s policy.