If maid sues, can umbrella insurance help?

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Dear Insurance Adviser,
Would an umbrella insurance policy cover me if my maid, lawn man or a handyman were to sue me for an injury on my property?
— Jessie

Dear Jessie,
As long as these workers are considered independent contractors, your homeowners insurance and umbrella liability policy will defend you and pay any judgment against you, up to policy limits.

Be careful, because this is not universally true for all domestic help. For example, the IRS would usually consider a nanny or personal care attendant to be an employee of yours. Then, depending on your state law, you may be required to carry workers compensation coverage on them.

But, if you were to buy workers’ comp coverage and one of these workers got injured on the job, they couldn’t sue you, as their employer. They’d have to settle for whatever benefits the state mandates for medical expenses and lost wages. However, if you broke the law and chose not to carry workers’ comp, a domestic employee could sue, and neither your homeowners nor umbrella policy would protect you.

States vary all over the board on their requirements for carrying workers’ compensation coverage on domestic employees. Minnesota, for example, doesn’t require coverage if you pay a domestic worker less than $1,000 during a three-month period. Washington state doesn’t require coverage unless you have more than one domestic employee.

Check with your state’s department of labor to see what your requirements are.

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