Personal Injury, the Internet, and You

Everyone knows that if you hurt someone or destroy someone’s property, you’ll be responsible for all the damages that occur. But what if you harm someone in a way that only impacts them mentally or financially? Is that something that can be covered by insurance? What does that have to do with the internet?

There is a category of offenses where there are damages, but neither physical damage nor bodily injury has occurred. These types of scenarios are considered to be Personal Injury offenses. This ‘grey-area’ encompasses many different scenarios, most of which are insurable by your Homeowner’s (or Renter's) policy. Examples of insurable Personal Injury offenses would be false arrest, slander, libel, and invasion of privacy. In any one of these situations, you could be sued for any damages that resulted if they were committed unintentionally.

These offenses are insurable, but most people would wonder when you would actually need that protection. As it turns out, our society’s extensive use of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites greatly increases our chances of invading privacy and making libelous statements. How simple would it be to give away personal information or unknowingly and incorrectly-discredit a business? While most of these offenses would be made completely accidentally, the damages are real, and it probably wouldn't matter much to the plaintiff.  

Even more concerning is the vicarious liability parents have for their minor-aged children. In Nebraska, your child is a minor until nineteen years of age, and as their legal guardian, you are responsible for the things they do, such as the things they say and do online. While you may never slip-up and create a personal injury scenario, you need to make sure your children won’t create one as well. Controlling your child’s actions and behaviors is fairly easy to do with most day-to-day tasks, but watching everything they do online is a lot harder. Keeping strict controls on your child’s internet access can help keep you out of the courtroom.

Tips for Safe Child-Internet Use:

  • Discuss what acceptable online-behavior is.
  • Establish safe and trusted sites that they can visit.
  • Monitor their computer's internet history.
  • Demand usernames and passwords for all online accounts.
  • Be ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ with your children that are on social networks.
  • If your child has a ‘smartphone’, internet use can be found on your monthly statements.
  • All devices store internet history, even tablets and small gadgets, so they can be monitored as well.
  • Turn off the Wi-Fi or change the password at the child’s bedtime.