In general terms the liability portion of your homeowner's policy makes two promises:
1. It pays for the damage you cause to other people's property and for the injuries you may cause to others. For example, in the case of an auto policy, if you crash into someone else's car the liability portion of your policy pays to replace their car, and the medical bills due to the bodily injury that you caused to the other party.
2. It pays for your legal defense in the event that you are sued for something covered in the policy. For example, in the case of a homeownwers policy, if someone slips and falls on ice on your front porch, and sues you, the liability portion of the policy would provide coverage to defend you against the suit.
However, there are different types of liability, and that are offered on different types of policies.
Personal Liability - This is a broad form of liability often found on homeowners policy. It provides coverage for the bodily injury and property damage that an insured person is found to be legally responsible for. It can provide coverage on the home's premise, but also away from the home's premise.
Premise Liability - This liability form typically is found on dwelling policies where the home is a secondary home (meaning you have personal liability from your primary homeowners policy), a rental property, or a vacant home. It also covers bodily injury and property damage, but it only provides coverage when the cause of the loss is on the insured premise. In other words, if something were to happen at the dwelling because it was unsafe and you were sued, then Premise liability would respond, but unlike personal liability it provides no coverage off the insured premise.
Personal Injury - This liability can be Excluded OR Included on a given policy, so if you want this coverage, you need to make sure the company you have chosen makes it available, and purchase it. Personal Injury excludes things such as False Arrest (keeping someone against their will even for a short period of time), Wrongful Eviction or Entry (Landlords pay attention), Invasion or violation of privacy (Landlords pay attention), and slander and defamation (have any kids on the internet?). You can see why this is important, but this is also often excluded under personal or premise liability, so if you have these exposures (you probably do) you will want to consider adding this to your policy.
How much liability to purchase? That is a good question, and one that only you can make, but more is better which is why we offer an umbrella policy so that you can purchase additional coverage.