Bloggers: keep careful counsel with your insurer

Lost in all the tales of woe about Obamacare and the government shutdown is an interesting story I heard from a friend of mine this week about his own insurance story. Not health insurance, but general home insurance. Turns out he was dropped by his insurer when he told them that he was a blogger. Who knew that blogging could be so risky a profession?

Most of us have some form of home insurance, whether we own a home or rent. We want to protect ourselves in case of fire, floods, or other disasters. Many of us also purchase a separate rider on these policies called an umbrella policy. This covers us for all sorts of odd circumstances, such as libel, slander, false arrests or other things. My friend, Bill Frezza, is a venture capitalist and a blogger, and he was calling his insurance agent to update his policy a few days ago. He volunteered that he was a blogger and the agent asked for the URL of his blog, which is menckenism.com. The next day they called him and told him he had about 10 months to find himself a new insurer. They wouldn’t cover him because he was a blogger.

Yes, Ameriprise sells umbrella policies that cover slander and libel. But apparently not to known bloggers. What about selling Frezza a policy and excluding slander and libel in some kind of waiver? They don’t have any way to do that. They don’t want his business. At all.

“No one should be forced to cover me – this isn’t Obamacare. But you would think I could get a waiver releasing them from slander and libel claims as a really do want the rest of the coverage,” said Frezza. “I guess I should have never volunteered that I was a blogger. But I never thought there would be an issue. Ameriprise told me that if they knew I was a blogger when I signed up for a policy, they would have never given me coverage.” Curiously, they ask all sorts of questions on the enrollment forms, such as whether or not he is a smoker and other demographic data, but not whether he blogs.

The insurance industry has a separate product for publishers and other media folks, called media liability coverage. But that typically is for people who are professionals in their fields. Not necessarily bloggers who may not be making much income from their work. As someone who is a freelance writer, I have never even heard of this coverage, and have never had it. Here is one place to learn more about this coverage.

I asked several of my freelancer friends about this and a few had heard about it.

Frezza has always carried a relatively high umbrella policy, not because he is fearful, but because he is prudent. As a former venture capitalist, he was a clear potential target. “Now I have to find another insurer,” he says. At least he has a few months to shop around. But should he explicitly tell his potential insurers that he blogs? Maybe, maybe not.

Considering the number of us that are bloggers, it could be a problem. Not that I am planning on writing anything that would libel someone, but you never know, particularly these days as the vitriol factor seems to be higher. So the question I have for you: should you tell your insurer that you blog? And what happens when they decide to drop you?

6 thoughts on “Bloggers: keep careful counsel with your insurer

  1. I thought that US slander laws generally used truth or reasonable belief that one is being truthful as the major defense – so that the risk of successful legal suit is quite low. In Australia our laws, which used to prevent much writing, were modified in this way and with restraints on corporations suing individuals. Also, generally, if you ask to know specific irritants and modify those whilst apologising for them, that usually makes a suit unlikely to be successful.

    Can’t you just go to another insurer, saying that you let your policy run out or you are looking for a less expensive one, and say that you are a writer or just don’t say anything, or get the insurance in the name of another member of the household?

  2. Thank you for this post! I refered to your article in my German law blog “Pabstblog”. In Germany the story might not have happend like this because there are other insurance cocepts instead of the umbrella police. But German bloggers could also be in need of a media insurance. So at least this case leads to make us think about our own insurance coverage.
    This is the link to my blogpost: http://pabstblog.de/2013/10/sind-blogger-ein-risiko-fuer-die-versicherung/

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