A tragedy occurred yesterday in our own back yard.  According to the Virginian Pilot, a fifty-six year old woman from Chester, Virginia was visiting Virginia Beach.  A gust of wind caused a beach umbrella to take flight and hit her in the head.  She was taken to a local hospital where she died from a life-threatening injury.  There were no additional details reported but one can only imagine the pain and grief that will lie on the wake of this accident.  Does she have a spouse… kids… parents that she has left behind?  How many lives are forever changed because she was taken away by such a freak accident?  Frankly, it’s hard to comprehend.

And then, we have to ask… what about the person who planted the beach umbrella?  Imagine the horror and guilt that this person must live with for the rest of their life.  Their negligence to secure their beach umbrella caused the needless death of another person.  Certainly, this person never considered the fact that their beach umbrella would break loose and result in the death of another beachgoer.  Without a doubt, the incident was a complete accident.  But it happened.

As a financial planner, I also wonder what the financial implications are on these two families.  Did the victim work and support herself and her family?  How will her death affect the financial plan of her family?  Will the family be able to recover from this financial loss? Does the responsible party have homeowners or renters insurance?  If they do, will the liability coverage be sufficient to satisfy claims of negligence against them and make the victim’s family financially whole?

There are two lessons we should all take from this story.

Lesson 1:  Secure your beach umbrella.  Lots of different kinds of accidents can happen and a loose beach umbrella is just one example.  But let’s focus on that for a moment, because believe it or not, incidents caused by flying beach umbrellas are not that uncommon.  A quick search on google results in multiple stories where individuals are senselessly injured or killed by flying umbrellas.  All of these incidents could have been prevented by simply securing the umbrella.  A sand auger that anchors a beach umbrella may be purchased on Amazon for as little as $14 with free shipping.  This is such a small price to pay to prevent your umbrella from taking flight.

Side Tip: The best practice is to use a beach umbrella with vents in the top combined with an umbrella anchor.

Lesson 2:  Protect yourself (and others) with sufficient liability coverage.  Accidents happen.  In this case, a person has lost their life because of a completely random accident.  Two families are going to be impacted… forever.  There is nothing that can address and fix the emotional scars that both the victim’s family and the umbrella-owner’s family will have to live with.

The financial impact of this tragedy is an entirely different matter.  In similar cases, the victim’s family has been awarded substantial monetary awards as a result of negligence, and they should be.  The victim’s family are forever impacted by an act of negligence… an unsecured beach umbrella.  So what does that mean to the family who owned the umbrella?

The umbrella owner’s family are probably responsible, contentious people who made a mistake, one that any of us could make. In this case, attorneys will most likely get involved.  Every attachable asset that the umbrella-owning family has worked for their entire life and everything they will work for during the remainder of their life is at risk of loss from this one accident.  Imagine that.  You make an accidental, completely random mistake and every bit of savings, investment, home equity… everything is at risk of loss.

What impact could that have on your family? This could mean not retiring when you expect, not being able to travel as you hoped, not being able to pay for college like you planned, maybe even having to return to work or take on a second job.  The only thing potentially standing between this family and financial ruin is sufficient liability protection.  A homeowners or renters insurance policy should cover them.  However, at $100,000, $300,000 or even $500,000 of coverage…. is that enough?  Very possibly, not.  The most important coverage a family can have is one of the least expensive policies: an excess liability policy.

An excess  liability policy “goes over” your underlying liability policies, such as your home, car, or boat liability coverage.  An excess  liability policy is typically provided in coverage multiples of a $1 million and is very inexpensive relative to the coverage.

(DISCLOSURE:  This blog is not intended to define coverage.  See your policy/talk to an agent for details.) 

We teach our clients that there are four events that can ruin your financial plan:  Death, Illness, Property loss, Negligence.

With respect to negligence, an excess liability policy is the most important protection that you can have.  Imagine being in this situation.  Of course you want to protect your own financial plan.  But wouldn’t you also want the victim’s family taken care of financially?

I know that if I was in this situation and I accidentally caused this accident, I would feel better knowing that my insurance company was taking care of the victim’s family financially.  To me that peace of mind is worth many times more than what I pay for an inexpensive liability policy. Accidents happen and even the best-laid plans get derailed. We can’t live our lives in fear of everything that could possibly go wrong. However, we can take all steps to protect ourselves and our families from the unknown.


Let The Braun Agency help you PLAN, ACHIEVE and PROTECT your future.



Richard Braun

President, The Braun Agency, Nationwide



The Braun Agency’s mission is to help you get from where you are to where you want to be financially by planning, achieving your plan and protecting your plan from unexpected events.  In the process, our goal is to deliver insurance services in a manner that exceeds your expectations.  See what The Braun Agency can do for you today. Give us a call at 757-452-4563 to speak with one of the licensed, professional members of our team or request a contact here. The Braun Agency. We’re on YOUR side. 757-INSURANCE.