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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Mark Friedlander

Director, Corporate Communications, Insurance Information Institute

Mark Friedlander has over 30 years of experience in the insurance industry. He is the Director, Corporate Communications, at the Insurance Informatio…

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Kristine Lee

Insurance Analyst

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty
  • 4+ years of Experience in the Insurance Industry

Kristine is a licensed insurance agent who joined The Zebra in 2019 as an in-house content researcher and writer. Before joining The Zebra, she was a…

Personal liability and homeowners insurance

Personal liability insurance is a type of coverage that protects you if you cause property damage or bodily injury to another party. Sometimes referred to as “civil liability,” this coverage is all about protecting your assets in the event that you are responsible for covering property damage or bodily injury to others.

Personal liability coverage is a standard component of most homeowners insurance policies. Coverage limits can vary from one policy to another, but these can be increased for an additional premium.

How does personal liability insurance work and how much do you need? Read on to learn more about liability coverage and how you can stay protected.


Personal liability coverage — table of contents
  1. What is personal liability insurance coverage?
  2. What does personal liability insurance cover? 
  3. What does personal liability insurance not protect?
  4. Do rates increase after a personal liability claim?
  5. What is personal injury insurance?
  6. How much personal liability coverage do you need?
  7. What is umbrella insurance?
  8. Personal liability vs. medical payments to others
  9. Personal liability insurance coverage considerations



What is personal liability insurance coverage?

Personal liability insurance protects you and members of your family in the event you are found legally responsible for harm to another, either through property damage or bodily injury. Liability insurance is especially helpful if you are sued for reasons as varied as someone slipping in your driveway or your dog biting a neighbor. 

Your liability insurance does not pay you. A liability insurance policy pays someone else on your behalf, usually as reimbursement for bodily injury or property damage occurring on your property or as a result of your actions (or those of a family member).



What does personal liability insurance cover?

A personal liability policy covers a homeowner — or renter — if they are held liable for damages arising from their property. This includes property damage or bodily injury that occurs beyond the boundaries of your property as well. For instance, if you accidentally harm someone while vacationing abroad — as long as it is a non-business activity and does not occur in a car — your liability policy will cover the medical bills up to the policy limits. 

Homeowners personal liability coverage extends to cover those living at your address. This includes your children and pets. For instance, if your child accidentally breaks a neighbor’s window, this would be covered under the property damage portion of your policy. Similarly, if your dog bites someone while you are out on a walk, your insurance company would cover the medical expenses. 

In the event you are sued, personal liability coverage will also cover defense costs or other legal expenses accrued if a claim ends up in court.


What does personal liability coverage not cover?

As with all homeowners insurance coverage, acts of war or intentional damages are not covered. There are other common exclusions to keep in mind.

One notable exclusion from liability home insurance is any damage that occurs while driving. If you are found at fault in an auto accident, your auto insurance policy’s liability coverage would kick in. Every state requires a minimum limit of auto liability insurance. It’s wise to consider carrying more than the state-mandated minimum car insurance liability coverage. 

Personal liability coverage doesn’t cover business-related activities. Any liability claims that arise while you are conducting business should be covered by your employer's insurance.

Personal injury losses, such as libel, slander and defamation are not covered by homeowners insurance. To be covered for these, you would need to extend your coverage with a personal injury endorsement or a personal umbrella policy.


Personal liability coverage for renters insurance

Similar to a home insurance policy, a renters insurance policy offers liability coverage. This covers you in the same situations and typically comes with a coverage level of $100,000, which can be increased at an additional cost.



Do rates increase after a personal liability claim?

Filing a personal liability claim causes the third-highest rate hike in home insurance premiums nationally. While the exact rate at which your rate will increase also depends on how much your insurance company paid out to defend you, you can expect — at the very least — to pay about 20% more after the claim is settled.

Number of Claims Average Annual Premium % Difference
No Claims $1,478 -
1 Liability Claim $1,774 +20%
2 Liability Claims $2,095 +18%

Take a look at liability claim rates from top insurance companies below to get started in your search for affordable home insurance following a claim. Learn about our methodology or see more information on home insurance after a claim.

Insurance Company Rate After Liability Claim
Allstate $2,105
American Family $2,676
Farmers $1,728
Liberty Mutual $1,746
Nationwide $1,589
State Farm $1,464
Travelers $1,790
USAA $1,528




What is personal injury insurance?

This endorsement to your homeowners policy protects you and members of your household against damages other than bodily injury or property damage. It goes beyond your personal liability coverage to cover claims of emotional trauma sustained from libel, slander, defamation, malicious prosecution, invasion of privacy and false arrest. The personal injury endorsement covers defense costs as well as potential settlement fees up to your designated coverage limits.


Who should add personal injury insurance? 

Anyone in a position to make public statements — be it through a social media post or online review — is at risk of being sued for personal injury. Similarly, landlords who are found guilty of wrongful entry or wrongful eviction can also find themselves at risk. Others who might consider adding personal injury coverage include board members of a homeowners organization, teachers or anyone with significant assets that they want to keep protected.



How much personal liability coverage do I need?

The amount of personal liability insurance you should carry depends on your specific situation. Coverage limits usually start somewhere around $100,000 but can be increased. Those with significant assets will naturally need to increase their liability protection, but there are a number of reasons to add increase your liability limits, including:

  • Your net worth (the higher it is, the higher your limits should be)
  • You own a pool or other attractive nuisance 
  • You play organized sports
  • Your job puts you at risk of a liability claim (teacher, doctor, lawyer, contractor, etc.)

If you feel that you need additional personal liability coverage, reach out to your insurance company to find out more about higher limits or even adding an umbrella policy. 



What is umbrella insurance?

An umbrella policy provides additional liability protection to supplement and extend the coverage offered by your home insurance to at least $1 million. It goes beyond standard liability insurance and usually increases coverage to $1 million. You can typically increase coverage through your personal umbrella policy in increments of $1 million. usually increases coverage to a minimum of $1 million

Your insurer will likely require you to carry a much higher liability limit in your standard home policy in order to qualify for this coverage. For instance, your insurance company may require policyholders to carry $300,000 in personal liability coverage in order to be eligible. In order for your umbrella policy to kick in, you would need to reach this liability coverage limit.



Personal liability vs. medical payments to others coverage

While personal liability steps in to cover a variety of costs related to property damage and medical expenses, your homeowners policy offers coverage that can sometimes remove the need to make such a claim. 

There are two key parts of liability coverage: personal liability and medical payments to others. In a standard homeowners policy, these are sometimes referred to as coverages E and F. 

Medical payments to others coverage kicks in to cover medical bills for someone suffering a bodily injury on your property. This insurance is intended to cover medical costs so you can avoid legal issues. Unlike personal liability, it is considered “no-fault” coverage, meaning that you do not have to prove any negligence on your part in order for the harmed party to be paid. The base limit of coverage usually starts at $1,000, and can typically be increased.



Personal liability insurance coverage considerations

While it is a standard part of homeowners and rental policies, your liability insurance coverage is hugely important. For many, increasing policy limits can grant you peace of mind. This is especially true for those with significant assets they want to protect. If the cost of increasing coverage has you hesitant, you may want to consider seeking out a new policy. The Zebra can help by allowing you to compare home insurance quotes from several affordable home insurance companies.


Compare home insurance rates and find a policy in minutes.

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About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance editorial content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.