A first-of-its-kind of insurance policy is supporting Canadians who have been victims of cyberbullying.
The policy could help students such as Kestrel McNeill, who said that for the majority of her Grade 12 year she felt alone.
“A group of my – used to be my very close friends – decided they didn’t like me anymore for whatever reason,” McNeill said.
McNeill said she was bullied by students at her high school, and in May of last year she attempted suicide.
“I was extremely isolated,” she said, adding that her parents quickly put her into weekly private counselling in an attempt to save their daughter.
Dawn Friest, McNeill’s mother, knew opting for free counselling would mean placing her on a six-month waiting list.
“We were very fortunate to be in a financial situation where we had the means to pay for private treatment for her,” said Friest.
“It wasn’t an option for us to wait because she was sinking and we could see her sinking.”
Kestrel’s family spent over $1,000 for the one-on-one sessions, but now a new type of insurance is offering families coverage related to cyberbullying expenses.
Home insurance clients of Chubb Insurance can add the Masterpiece Family Protection Coverage policy to their existing plan, which now includes cyberbullying coverage for the first time in Canada.
“Unfortunately we have all heard of instances where people have been impacted by others misusing technology to cause harm and loss and it really is an unfortunate thing,” said Senior Vice President Paul Johnstone.
The policy covers expenses victims or family members might incur because of online harassment.
Those include expenses such as psychologists, lost wages due to wrongful termination and temporary relocation. Consultations from digital forensic professionals and reputation management firms are also included, which could help assess and amend the negative footprint that cyberbullying can leave online.
The policy does not cover legal fees.
“If there is medical expenses or psychiatric support, if there is a need for rest and recuperation, that’s a coverage that’s provided,” Johnstone said.
“If an insured had to temporarily relocate that would be covered. So our focus is on the insured and trying to find a way to take care of them in these unfortunate instances.”
The policy has a $110 premium and also includes insurance for carjacking, hijacking, child abduction, stalking threats and home invasion coverage.
The U.S. and UK have similar plans that Johnstone said have been extremely successful.
“There is a tremendous amount of interest and that speaks to our world, today,” he said. “Technology is a wonderful and powerful thing, but can also be a gateway to risk.”
Criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger said while there are great features included in the policy, he doesn’t believe cyberbullying coverage will proliferate within the insurance industry.
“There are a lot of very constructive ways to deal with online types of harassments,” Neuberger said.
The maximum for the cyberbully coverage is $60,000 per incident but Neuberger added victims are likely to yield more compensation if they choose to pursue legal action.
“Let’s say you lose a job as a result of things being posted online, well a wrongful dismissal could result in much more significant damages than what you can claim under this policy,” Neuberger said.
“And if you are going after an individual who has some assets and your damages might be in far more excess of this.”
Carol Todd’s daughter Amanda took her own life in 2012 after dealing with cyberbullying.
Todd said that while the policy looks good on paper, she still has her doubts.
“I would like to see what the process was going to be like. If there has been families who have used this, what was their wait time, what was their dealings with the insurance company, was it agreeable or would it be a possible re-victimization?” Todd said.
But McNeill and her family believe the coverage would be a useful tool for parents.
“Most parents just don’t have the tools or the means to deal with this stuff when it happens, you throw your hands up in the air and you don’t know where to turn,” Friest said.
“If these types of tools are available through an insurance policy, I think families might be more able to address the issues.”