Bullying: Beyond the Schoolyard

Technology has improved many aspects of our lives, but one thing that no one wants improved is bullying. Unfortunately, Facebook, Twitter and other social-media sites have helped the bullying of an individual take on a whole new life of its own. Now a student can be harassed not just on the playground at school but also virtually by students at other schools once the bully posts something on a social-media site. This increases the possibility of emotional distress which, under certain circumstances, can be considered “bodily injury.” 

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In insurance, bodily injury is defined as “bodily harm, sickness or disease, including required care, loss of services and death that results.” So how can emotional distress be considered to be bodily injury? In and of itself, emotional distress is not sickness or disease, and rarely does it cause death. However, emotional distress can manifest itself in physical ways, such as headaches, stomachaches and even vomiting. 

But once we have bodily injury covered, we still have the “intentional acts” exclusion. Here it is critical that the injury be intended or expected—and that can be debatable when dealing with children, especially if they are younger. Does a student intend or expect any physical ramifications by calling someone else “four eyes”? Probably not. And while bullying is meaner now, you still have the same issue as to what a bully intends or expects. He or she may intend to hurt feelings but not have any idea that physical symptoms can result. 

This is a complicated issue that can’t be totally covered in a blog, so here’s a shameless plug: FC&S subscribers can visit www.nationalunderwriterpc.com to view the in-depth article “Bullying, Sexting and Liability Coverage.”

About the Author
Christine G. Barlow

Christine G. Barlow

Christine G. Barlow is an Associate Editor with FC&S Online, a sister publication of PropertyCasualty360-National Underwriter and part of Summit Business Media. She has an extensive background in insurance underwriting. She may be reached at cbarlow@sbmedia.com.

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