Umbrellas are designed to be carried over a person's primary (also known as underlying) liability coverage. Primary refers to the fact that in the event of a loss, the liability portion of your auto or homeowner coverage is the first to respond. Umbrellas or excess liability policies respond to an eligible loss only after the primary insurance has paid its limit.
It's quite possible that your primary insurance limits provide more coverage than you'll ever need. However, circumstances could involve a type of loss that is not completely covered by a primary policy. For instance, your newly licensed child is driving the family car and slides on an icy highway. He ends up causing a chain collision damaging several cars and injuring a dozen drivers and their passengers. Or maybe you often volunteer to help transport members of your son's first grade class on field trips and you have an accident because you tried to beat a yellow light. If you don't have enough primary coverage, any shortage may have to come out of your personal assets.
Umbrellas generally provide additional liability coverage for the following underlying policies:
- Personal Automobile
- Recreational Vehicles
- Personal Liability
The additional coverage may often extend to handling related expenses, also on an excess basis, such as the cost of providing a court defense. Please see Umbrella Coverages - Part 2 for more information.