If ever you’ve been present at a high school graduation, religious service, or third-grade spelling bee, you will have undoubtedly noticed a trend on the part of those speaking. The trend is to define the term on which they wish to focus their remarks by turning to Webster or Oxford or whatever dictionary they have closest at hand and then reading the precise definition. It’s an age-old practice that’s as annoying as it is predictable.
Individual liability: A financial obligation for which an individual is responsible and which may be satisfied out of his or her assets (Business Dictionary).
So why is individual liability of any concern to you, you ask? Well, allow me to ask you two basic questions:
Congratulations! You are open for business. You've set up shop and hung out your shingle. You have probably prepared yourself by purchasing an insurance policy. Unfortunately, in today's increasingly litigious society, a general or professional liability policy still leaves you exposed and vulnerable. One statistic states that 19 million lawsuits are filed each year. If you own a business, investment properties, or are a professional, you may have a one in three chance of being named in a lawsuit.
If you are named personally in a lawsuit for something your policy excludes, your personal assets become fair game– home, financial accounts, life insurance policies that have a cash value, real estate, businesses, cars, electronics, investment portfolios, collections of art, antiques, etc. Lawyers are expert at identifying gaps and exclusions in insurance policies and consequently will go after damages that exceed your policy coverage. They will come to huff and puff until they blow your house, your bank account, and any other personal assets all down. An additional insurance policy may be necessary to make sure you don't lose everything to the big bad wolf.
My family has had a German Shepherd for almost 12 years now. She’s a wonderful dog. Her name is Bella (no, she isn’t named after the girl from Twilight), and she is a sweetheart.
German Shepherds have the uncanny ability to look brilliant. Like, brilliant to the level of being able to buy groceries and defuse bombs upon command. Bella is the same way. Her ears stand erect, her posture is vigilant, and her overall demeanor commands respect and epitomizes courage.
At least, that’s what she looks like. As her family, we know that Bella is afraid of cats, poodles, most birds, fireworks, thunder, the sound the heater makes as it’s turning on, and anyone going more than thirty seconds without petting her. Basically, she’s a big sissy.
I know a thing or two about competition. I was sixteen, playing volleyball for my high school team. Things were pretty intense; the teams were neck-and-neck. The other team bumped, set and spiked!....right into my face. My face burned from a mixture of humiliation and pain and my ears rung, thankfully masking the sound of the other team’s fans cheering from the stands. I blinked, dazed, wondering if my face would appear permanently smashed after this experience. I was angry, but even though my team was losing and I had been injured, I never thought of retribution.
The same cannot be said for John Levi Miller, a former professional wrestler who is currently suing an old opponent for kicking him in the crotch hard enough to cause his testicles to rupture, resulting in one of them having to be removed. Ouch! And I thought I knew what being competitive was all about.
Confucius, once said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” In a better world, such words of wisdom would cause at very least a moment of reflection, but alas today’s modern society abounds with stories of revenge and retaliation gone awry.
When it comes to retaliation in the workplace, it’s important for employers and managers to remember that prevention is much preferred to the bitter pill of litigation. That’s because, historically speaking, it’s typically the company that ends up taking the blame in retaliation suits. In fact, recent studies indicate that an employee who files a retaliation lawsuit is more likely to prevail at trial and recover significant damages than an employee filing a typical discrimination claim.
What makes retaliation claims so much different? One theory would indicate that jurors, while slow to believe that managers are racist or sexist, are much more likely to find those same individuals capable of seeking revenge on someone looking to hurt the company. It’s simply human nature.
Times are tough. Nobody even has to say it anymore. It’s just a fact. A fact that we’ve lived with for a few years now. And while there are some things we can’t do about the times in which we live, there are also some things that we can do.
Like protecting ourselves from losing the things we’ve worked so hard to obtain. Protecting our assets.
Some people unknowingly place too much confidence in prepaid legal services – a first attempt at legal protection. Prepaid legal services are useful at the basic level. However, there are some things that a prepaid legal plan can’t do. Times when something more sophisticated is required. Its limitations apply in tort litigation, criminal cases, and are of little help in traffic cases. Additionally, there are catastrophic lawsuits where the existing insurance limits are exceeded and additional liability insurance is necessary.
You know how difficult it is to apply sunscreen to your own back. No matter how much you stretch and contort, there is always a spot that you miss- right down the center. And after a day in the sun, that is the spot that causes you to lose sleep at night from the burning, prickly heat of a sunburn. Your discomfort is due to leaving that spot open and vulnerable.
Unfortunately, some medical malpractice policies can leave you just as open and vulnerable to getting burned.
Have you ever been summoned for jury duty? Well, let me tell you a little about it. You HAVE to go; no if, and, or buts about it.
You are sometimes allowed to reschedule, but you’ve still got to do your time. Missing work, school, birthdays, weddings, or whatever it may be is inconvenient to say the least. What if the case continues on for weeks or even months? Now can you imagine if you weren’t on the jury, but were the defendant?! It can happen easier than one might think, especially for all you professionals out there.
Thinking that you’re completely protected from lawsuits is a rather naïve assumption, especially nowadays. Recent trends in court decisions have been holding HR practitioners, supervisors, business owners, and other decision-makers personally liable for their actions under several employment laws.
Don’t you hate exceptions? Like when you have a 50% off coupon to the restaurant you love and you go there only to find out the coupon is not valid at that location. Or, say you enter to win a drawing and the fine print says, “You must live in _____ to qualify” or “You must be ____ age to apply” and you are disqualified? A lot of times, it just doesn’t seem fair.
At XINSURANCE we get that. That’s why we aim to insure what other insurance policies consider an exception and leave out of what they cover.
It’s an unfortunate fact that the world in which we live is getting a little litigious. Lawsuits these days can pop up out of anywhere, and they aren’t always legitimate.
Frivolous lawsuits are especially present when your net worth gets higher. Sometimes, personal lawsuits can seek up to two-to-five million dollars, and for people who live or work in lawsuit-heavy industries (i.e. nonprofit organizations, condominium rentals, etc.), it might be a good idea to evaluate where your regular home policies might fall short, and where a personal liability policy might be a good idea.
A friend of mine works with kids, coaching sports at a local school. While most of us question her sanity, we also admire how much good she does in the lives of those girls. She told me a story, though, that made me realize how sticky a situation working with kids can be.