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Personal Liability in the Age of COVID-19

By Mark Thomas, CLU, ChFC

CPAs, as with all Americans, have had their lives radically altered by the coronavirus pandemic. More of us are working from home than at any time in our history. School age children are learning from home. Millions are unemployed.

With more people at home than ever before, increased liability risks for home owners may ensue. To help protect your finances, you may wish to consider adding a Personal Liability Umbrella plan to your insurance portfolio.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. When personal injury lawsuits occur, they can be devastating. Over the past five years, the AICPA Personal Liability Umbrella Plan has paid an average of $957,038 per claim.1 Unless you’re Jeff Bezos, that’s not something most of us can afford.

In this article, we are addressing some of the recent changes that have occurred in the home space due to COVID-19. If any of them exist in your environment, they may increase your potential risk of becoming an unwanted statistic.

 

College age children are at home, young adults are returning home.

The pandemic has caused more than 2.5 million young adults to return home. Whether it is because they seek to escape hot spots such as New York City, experienced job loss, or because their college has shifted to remote learning, 52% of young people age 18 to 29 are now living with their parents. This data is higher than during the Great Depression when 48% of young adults lived at home.2

To the extent that these young adults invite others into the house, your potential risks are increased.

 

With driver’s ed classes closed, parents worry about teenage drivers.

Because of the coronavirus, 62% of driver’s education courses have been disrupted. As a result, 61% of parents report being worried about their teen’s safe driving skills during the pandemic. Eighty-eight percent are concerned their teen is engaging in unsafe driving.3

Ninety-two percent of the claims reported to the AICPA Personal Liability Umbrella Plan are due to automobile accidents—and a high percentage of these involve youthful drivers.4 If your teenagers are driving to school and carrying passengers, your risks have increased.

 

Families are sharing childcare duties.

Although some day care centers are still open under strict guidelines, a recent survey demonstrates that 63% of parents are not comfortable using them. Some families are turning to ‘podding’ as a childcare method. Families have created small pods with other families to share the care of their children. This brings more people into the home, increasing your liability risks from a potential injury.5

 

Home improvements and home values are on the rise.

Spending more time at home has inspired many homeowners to do the home repairs or improvements to make their living space more comfortable. In 2020, home remodeling, such as additions, have increased 52%. These home improvements are increasing home values.5 Families often have friends and family members assist them in these projects. For 2018, the National Safety Council reported that more than 50% of preventable injuries and deaths occurred in the home.

These types of projects present potential liability risks and increase the value of personal assets you need to protect.

 

With families stay-cationing at home, swimming pools have increased in popularity.

With families and young people unable to travel, backyard pools are suddenly in high demand. Poolcorp, an international distributor of swimming pool parts and supplies, has seen a 54% increase in business over the last year. 5 Some installers are estimating a 200% surge over 2019 sales. With these increases, the Better Business Bureau reports a 25% increase in injuries and lawsuits against pool-related business this year.6

If you have a pool or have added a pool, and you’re inviting others to use it, your liability risks have increased.

 

Pet sales and adoptions have risen dramatically.

Whether it is to keep children entertained or because they felt lonely, many households have decided to add a pet to the family. Starting in mid-March, pet stores, private breeders and rescue shelters have experienced a dramatic increase in pet sales and adoptions. For example, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, reports that adoptions have doubled over last year.7

If you’ve added a pet to your household, you should be aware that dog bites are among the most common types of home injuries that can lead to a personal injury lawsuit.8

 

Family members are spending more time on social media.

Due to social distancing orders, with Americans unable to visit friends and family, social media use has expanded. Reports demonstrate that up to 51% of adults are using social media at a higher rate than before the pandemic.9 From such an increase in social media use, an increase in libel/slander claims is anticipated, and such claims may be covered under your homeowners and an umbrella policy.

 

If your risks have increased, consider adding a personal liability umbrella policy.

Approximately, 25,000 CPAs and their families depend upon the AICPA Personal Liability Umbrella Plan for their financial well-being. Visit our website to learn more. Or you can speak with an AICPA Risk Advisor at 800.223.7473, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.

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1CNA Claims Data, AICPA Personal Liability Umbrella Plan, 2020.

2D’Vera Cohn, “About a fifth of U.S. adults moved due to COVID-19 or know someone who did,” Pew Research Center, July 6, 2020. 

Richard Fry, Jeffrey S. Passel & D’Vera Cohn, “A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression,” Pew Research Center, September 4, 2020.

3”Michelin releases survey about impact of COVID-19 on driver education,” Traction, October 21, 2020.

4Ibid., CNA Claims Data.

5Megan Leonhardt, “63% of families are uncomfortable sending their children back to day care—here’s how experts say you can prepare,” Make It, June 24, 2020.

Katherine Harmon Courage, “Day Care, Grandparent, Pod or Nanny? How to Manage the Risks of Pandemic Child Care,” NPR, August 21, 2020.

5Diana Olick, “Pandemic home remodeling is booming: Here’s what your neighbors are doing,” CNBC, August 7, 2020.

6Maria Sciullo, “Everybody wants a backyard pool, but the line is long,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 15, 2020.

7Kim Kavin, “Dog adoptions and sales soar during the pandemic,” The Washington Post, August 12, 2020.

8E.A. Gjelten, “A Negligent Dog Owner's Liability,” Nolo, 2020.

9Aho Williamson, “Uptick in US Adults' Social Media Usage Will Likely Normalize Post-Pandemic,” Marketer, June 22, 2020.

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All descriptions, summaries or highlights of coverage are for general informational purposes only and do not amend, alter or modify the actual terms or conditions of any insurance policy. Coverage is governed only by the terms and conditions of the relevant policy.

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