What is electronic aggression and why are many homeowners’ companies excluding electronic aggression from homeowners coverage? According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) “electronic aggression” is defined as “any kind of aggression perpetrated through technology—any type of harassment or bullying (teasing, telling lies, making fun of someone, making rude or mean comments, spreading rumors, or making threatening or aggressive comments) that occurs through email, a chat room, instant messaging, a website (including blogs), or text messaging.”
According to American Bar Association, many states have defined electronic aggression (cyber bullying) as a repeated or continuous course of conduct. States like North Dakota have define cyberbullying to include “pervasive” conduct,” which could be interpreted to mean a continuous course of conduct, although the term could also refer to the severity of a single incident. For some insurance policies, if the cyber bullying meets the standard of intentional acts, it could mean the difference if a company will respond to the risk.
Whether or not a minor can form an intent that is “expected or intended” and may be used to bar coverage would seem to be a lawyer’s dream and an insurance company’s or insured’s nightmare.
For insurance customers this means that relying on the common homeowner policy for coverage involving electronic aggression would be problematic. Luckily there are optional endorsements available to the standard HO3 policy, including ISO Form HO 24 82. This form changes the limits and definitions of the basic HO policy.
However from a homeowner’s viewpoint, there are many variables that will affect whether or not a particular coverage will exist and what that scope might be. In addition, individual policy language varies from company to company, meaning that whether or not the acts will meet the definitions and limitations of the personal liability portion of the policy depend on a company’s intent. Unfortunately more and more companies are intending to limit the coverage.
How the policy language of your policy is designed and what endorsements can be added to protect yourself from liability claims based on electronic aggression is a discussion you need to have with your local independent insurance agent. An independent agent can offer you a variety of companies with different levels of protection.
Coverage varies wildly from state to state and from company to company.
Insurance companies are in the business to make a profit. It is up to you, as an informed consumer, to make an informed decision based on recommendations by knowledgeable professionals.
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