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What is third-party liability insurance?

Third-party liability coverage is the portion of an insurance policy that protects you if you’re held legally responsible for a physical injury or damage to someone else’s property. Also referred to as “legal liability coverage,” this section of your policy is set up to cover things like legal fees, the amount of money you have to pay to settle a lawsuit, and other related expenses (like loss of income if you have to take the day off to go to court, for example) up to the limits in your policy.

Why is third-party liability coverage so important?

Accidents happen, even when you take all the right steps to prevent them — and accidents often result in lawsuits that can have serious financial consequences. All of the scenarios we’ve listed in this post are examples of times when you could be held legally responsible for injuries or damage to other peoples’ property. Liability coverage ensures you won’t get stuck paying out of your own pocket when the unexpected happens.

If I have liability coverage in my home insurance policy, does it cover me when I’m driving, too?

No. When you’re operating a vehicle, liability for injuries or damage to other peoples’ property is not covered by your home insurance policy — so you’ll need to carry enough liability coverage on your car insurance policy to protect you in case of a driving-related mishap.

How much liability coverage should I have?

You should buy enough liability coverage to protect your financial security. Once a claim has exceeded the limit in your policy, you’ll be responsible for paying the remaining balance — which, depending on the severity of the situation, could lead to financial trouble or even bankruptcy. The more liability coverage you have, the less you’ll have to pay out of pocket if you’re involved in a lawsuit. Here are a few tips to consider when deciding on your liability limits:

Home insurance liability coverage
  • Many home insurance companies require you to have a liability limit. While this may be enough to cover most typical liability claims, many claims do exceed a certain amount, especially when there are long-term injuries involved.
  • Consider a higher limit if there’s anything on your property that could increase the chances of someone getting hurt (a swimming pool, a swing set, or pets, for example).
  • If you have a home-based business that’s insured through an endorsement on your home insurance policy, make sure your liability limit is high enough to protect you in the event that your business activities result in a lawsuit.
Auto insurance liability coverage
  • Each province has its own minimum liability limit that’s required for all drivers, but the cost of a lawsuit can quickly exceed this minimum limit — so you may want to consider increasing your own liability limit just to be safe. It’s generally recommended to have a liability limit of at least $1 million on your car insurance policy.
  • Carrying enough liability coverage on your car insurance policy is especially important if you ever drive in the United States, where lawsuits are much more common (and generally more expensive) than they are in Canada.

Increasing the liability limit on your car or home insurance policy may cost less than you think, so it’s worth contacting your broker to find out how much it would cost to take your coverage to the next level.

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