Frivolous lawsuits and outlandish settlements got the public’s blood boiling a few years ago when a judge – yes, a judge – sued a small, family-owned dry cleaners for $65 million for losing a pair of his pants. Small businesses, this goes to show, are just as vulnerable to unfounded claims as their deep-pocket peers. According to the Small Business Administration, 52 percent of lawsuits target small businesses, which the Institute for Legal Reform estimated in 2007 cost small businesses $98 billion a year. the economic engine that creates 64 percent of America’s jobs.

Not a small business owner or big business executive? You could still face significant loss of assets from damages and court costs in a liability claim. You get some protection through your homeowners, renters and auto insurance, but every policy has limits and your policies may leave you exposed where you least expect it.

Umbrella policies provide extra, overall coverage beyond these specific policies. Amounts usually range from $1 million to $5 million and typically cover losses beyond what your other policies will pay. The coverage isn’t tied to your property or vehicle so it goes with you where you go, but it typically does not cover business activities, even if the business is operated from your home.

Your need for personal liability coverage depends on two factors: the amount of assets you have and the risks associated with your lifestyle. Do you have a pool on your property? Allow hunting on your farm or ranch? Have employees like a nanny or housekeeper working at your home? All of those factors expose you to risks beyond the scope of a typical homeowners policy.

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Do other factors make you a target for lawsuits? Faced with the prospect of deep pockets, some people will be tempted to pick them. Even frivolous claims can cost you in time and emotional distress. Public knowledge of your assets, recent inheritance, land holdings, income or lottery winnings – or even mistaken assumptions about these things – can bring out claims from the classic slip and fall to more elaborate ruses.

Typically, umbrella liability coverage extends to your spouse, your children and any relatives living in your household, under your care or under the care of a relative living with you. That can be a welcome reassurance when you have teenagers driving or college students living away from home.

Umbrella liability insurance can protect what you’ve saved for a rainy day. Your financial advisor or insurance professional can help you examine your current coverages and potential risks to determine how big your umbrella needs to be.

Copyright January 2010, Securities America Financial Corporation. All rights reserved. Securities offered through Securities America, Inc., a Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory Services offered through Securities America Advisors, Inc., an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. This January 2010 article may contain time-sensitive content that may change over time, becoming more or less pertinent and accurate. Facts, figures, theories and strategies represented in this article may not be appropriate for all investors at all times. Please visit with your personal financial advisor or registered representative before acting on any content from this article. Securities America and its advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax or legal professional regarding your individual situation. SAI# 136858

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Headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, Securities America Financial Corporation (SAFC) is the holding company for Securities America Inc and Securities America Advisors Inc SAFC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services.Author: Steven Donald

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