Contractors Insurance Coverages
Damages, medical expenses and more
As a contractor, you need liability insurance. Contractors insurance plans often provide some measure of general liability coverage. This means that these plans help reduce the risk that your business will face costly lawsuits that could shutter its doors. The US Small Business Administration suggests that business owners discuss their specific risks with insurance providers to determine what type to get and how much coverage is necessary. Contractors insurance policies range significantly in terms of what they offer. Most will have a business owner’s policy (BPO) that will provide:
- General liability insurance
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Commercial vehicle insurance
- Other insurance products you need
WHY DO YOU NEED IT?
Good liability risk management can reduce the chances that your business will be sued, but it can never eliminate the risk entirely. You or a member of your organization can make a mistake that injures someone or damages property. Your mistake could harm the reputation or interfere with the privacy of a customer, client, competitor or member of the general public. When such injuries occur, you may be legally liable to pay damages to someone who suffers a loss due to your actions or inaction.
Depending on the degree of harm and the number of people injured and/or value of property damaged, a lawsuit could bankrupt your business. Even if your organization is ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, a determined plaintiff can keep you tied up in legal proceedings for a long time, entailing significant cost to defend yourself. Liability insurance pays the cost of your defense and protects your assets.
HOW ARE LIABILITY & DAMAGES DETERMINED?
Everyone in society has a duty to take reasonable care that his or her actions do not injure others. The same rule applies to business entities. Not repairing a pothole in a parking lot, not lighting a dark stairway, failing to train workers how to do their jobs safely and legally or failing to provide directions for the safe use of a product can constitute negligence if a client, customer or member of the general public is injured as a result. The legal meaning of negligence is a failure to exercise reasonable care. If the parties do not agree to settle a liability lawsuit, there may be a trial. Or, the parties may agree to use some alternative means of dispute resolution, such as arbitration, and be bound by the arbitrator’s ruling.
The law of the state where the lawsuit is filed sets the rules for the determination of liability and damages. The amount of damages imposed in any particular case is, of course, in part a function of the economic losses the plaintiff can prove he or she has endured due to the defendant’s negligence.
WHAT KIND OF LIABILITY POLICY SHOULD I GET?
For small businesses the most efficient and least expensive way to purchase liability insurance is usually as part of the Business Owners Policy(BOP) which combines property and liability insurance in one contract. Alternatively, a business may purchase a Commercial General
WHAT TYPES OF DAMAGES ARE COVERED BY THE BOP?
Your liability insurer will pay damages that you are legally obligated to pay as a result of “bodily injury,” “property damage” or “personal and advertising injury,” up to the policy limits and subject to your deductible. Punitive damages are generally not covered, although there may be some exceptions. Bodily injury means injury, sickness, disease or death; it may include injuries that are emotional or mental, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome or humiliation.
Personal and advertising injury includes libel, slander or any defamatory or disparaging material or a publication or utterance in violation of an individual’s right of privacy; infringing the privacy or copyright rights of another in your advertisement; wrongful entry or eviction, or other invasion of the right of private occupancy; and false arrest or wrongful detention.
WHAT IS COVERED MEDICAL EXPENSES?
For the most part, your BOP liability coverage is for situations where a third party claims you were negligent and sues for damages. The medical payments coverage is an exception, as it pays medical expenses for bodily injury to third parties that occurs on premises you own or rent or as a result of your operations regardless of fault.
People are less likely to sue you if they receive prompt medical payments to cover the costs of any injuries they have sustained for which they could claim your business or organization is liable. Medical Payments coverage gets the payments to them without their having to file a lawsuit or go to court and engage in a protracted claims process. This coverage also allows your insurer to pay small nuisance claims without the need for costly legal expenses.
People who commit insurance fraud usually know that for claims below a certain amount, insurers prefer to pay the claim or settle rather than incur the legal costs to defend against the claim. If you have a relatively high limit for medical payments, your insurer can more readily dispose of a lot of smaller claims. However, submitting multiple medical expense claims could negatively impact your insurance claims history. If you are in a business with significant traffic from the public, such as a retail store, be sure to discuss the possible consequences of your medical payments limit on your claims history with your agent.
WHO IS INSURED?
BOP liability coverage insures a sole proprietor, partners or partners named in the policy “Declarations,” but only with respect to their duties on behalf of the business. The spouses of sole proprietors or partners are also covered. If your organization has officers and directors, they are insured, as are your stockholders, but, once again, and this applies to all parties, only with respect to their duties or liabilities in connection with the business. Employees and volunteer workers are insured for acts committed within the scope of their employment in your business.