30 Jul 2020 Will Remote Learning Impact My Personal Insurance?

With the new school year quickly approaching, many parents and families are finding themselves at a loss for how to handle the potential of online or remote learning this fall. I think we’d all agree that right now, we just feel utterly unprepared.

And it’s no surprise.

When schools shut down in the middle of March this year due to Coronavirus, we all hoped and prayed that this nightmare would be over by the new school year. But as we’re quickly approaching August, it is clear that we still have a ways to go.

Many of us at Berry Insurance are parents, and are grappling with decisions for remote learning this fall. There are so many things to contemplate! Several of our clients have been reaching out for guidance, and I myself have been wondering what is best for my four young children. How will our children adjust? Will there be any social or behavioral effects? How will we manage our new roles as teachers, and potentially, as working parents? 

But there is also one more question we have to grapple with – will remote learning impact my insurance coverage? And the answer is, yes, it potentially could. Let’s dive in.

Remote Learning and Homeowners Insurance

If your child will be remote learning in the fall, whether it’s elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, there may very well be a few adjustments that need to be made to your Massachusetts homeowners insurance policy.

Computer Equipment

If you’re like me, you may have had to purchase a few extra laptops this spring to enable your children to work online. If not, perhaps your school district supplied you with a school laptop. Or, your child might be provided a laptop as part of their college tuition costs. Regardless, it’s likely that the number of electronics has increased in your home. If that is the case, you may need to adjust your computer coverage.

Many insurance companies provide a sub-limit of around $2,500 for computer coverage. If this limit would not be sufficient to replace your existing devices, you may want to increase this coverage.

Cyber Protection

In my last count, our family of six has a total of 20 computers, wifi printers, laptops, smartphones, ipads and smart TVs in our home. And I could be missing one or two. These devices are part of our everyday life and in some ways, especially when concerning remote learning, they are essential. But they also create new avenues for cyber hackers to access our network and steal information.

Many insurance companies today have created home cyber protection coverages that can provide increased liability coverage to defend against these types of claims. A limit of $50,000 could cost you as little as $50 a year, and may be worth consideration if you have an increase in devices on your network.

Personal Injury Coverage

Remote learning has children involved with Google Classroom, Zoom and a host of other online learning platforms. Many of these platforms include chat features, and while we never want to think our children would say something bad on the internet – it happens. Trust me…

Personal injury coverage on your homeowners policy will provide protection against claims for defamation, libel or slander made by you or your children. Unfortunately we live in a technological world where even the best intended comments can be misconstrued very easily. Adding this coverage to your policy is very inexpensive.

Pollutants

You might be wondering what remote learning has to do with pollutants, and believe us, at first, we thought the same thing. But if you have a high school or college aged child, pollutants could become an issue for you. 

We’ve been hearing from some schools and colleges that lab kits will be sent to the students to complete at home as part of their remote learning requirements. If this will be the case for your child, there are some important limitations to your policy you should be aware of.

Your homeowners policy contains a pollutants exclusion, which is most commonly applied to the discharge, seepage, release or escape of pollutants. The definition of what is considered a pollutant is: “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal irritant or contaminant, including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, chemicals and waste.”

Now, let’s review a few examples. 

If a chemical reaction caused a fire, it could potentially be a covered loss. But on the other hand, if a pollutant leak causes damage to your property – say your son spills some chemicals that damage your new kitchen countertops – that would likely be excluded.

It’s important to note that this could be a gray area for many insurance companies – as this type of claim has likely never occurred before. So it’s best to review your coverages and exclusions with your insurance agent, so they can work with the insurance company on the best coverage for your individual situation.

Business Pursuits

Another area of concern, specifically for college-aged students, would be if they are engaging in any remote work arrangements while home for the semester. If your college student has arranged remote work study, paid work, internship, or otherwise, there could be limitations in coverage should a claim occur.

A standard Massachusetts homeowners policy will not provide coverage for anything “arising out of or in connection with a ‘business’ engaged in by an ‘insured’.”

Unfortunately, this is another gray area. Whether a work study would count as a “business” would depend on the circumstances of the claim. Again, we recommend letting your insurance agent know if your child will have any remote work while at home.

Remote Learning and Child Care

It’s no question that a return to remote learning this fall will create some logistical problems for working parents. We’ve heard from several clients that they are considering hiring part-time or full-time caregivers for children, either to cover the before-school and after-school care, or to be home all day long. Some are hiring to simply handle drop-off and pick-up duties. And some families are considering hiring a teacher to hold in-home co-op learning for small groups of children.

If any of these situations have crossed your mind, you will want to note that your homeowners insurance policy will not cover anyone caring for your child, or offering their teaching services. These individuals, even if only getting paid for an hour a day, would be considered your employee, and thus you would need to obtain a workers compensation policy to cover them.

A Massachusetts Workers compensation policy with a $1,000,000 limit costs $293 a year. Hiring someone to help with child care is stressful enough as it is, so be sure you know what nanny insurance is, and what you need to apply for nanny insurance coverage.

Get Covered for Remote Learning

We know many of you are still waiting to hear from your child’s school on the decision of whether to return to in-school or online learning. And some of you, regardless of what the school decides, have made the choice to keep your child home and engage in remote learning. At Berry Insurance, many of us are facing these very same decisions. We’re sending you virtual hugs!

If remote learning is one of your options, be sure to give your insurance agent a call today to discuss what changes you may need to make to your insurance policies. While you’re at it, ask your insurance agent for a complete review of all your insurance coverages so that you can be sure you’re back-to-school ready this fall!

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