How Has Covid-19 Coronavirus
Affected The Commercial Insurance Industry?

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How Has Covid-19 Coronavirus Affected The Commercial Insurance Industry?

How Has Covid-19 Coronavirus Affected The Commercial Insurance Industry?

How Has COVID-19 Coronavirus Affected The Commercial Insurance Industry?. In February 2020, the United States had its first diagnosis of COVID19. State authorities around the country shut down most businesses to minimize spreading the virus.

Flattening the curve (reducing viral spread) was critical to prevent the nation's healthcare system from being overwhelmed. Only businesses considered essential by Homeland Security remained opened. Essential services are part of the business infrastructure that supports public health, safety, and community well-being.

They included operations such as critical manufacturing (such as food and health products), health care, food and agriculture, water, transportation, government (such as defense), emergency services, grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants (take out or delivery only), etc.

Stay at home orders were implemented in the majority of states with some orders lasting three or more months. This created significant unemployment and substantially reduced business revenues.

Some businesses either had or quickly developed contingency plans in where operations continued with employees working from home. Many other businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and retail type industries either had to move to limited services or online sales. Still other businesses had to close altogether as they did not have the financial resources to exercise other options. Naturally, many businesses suffered significant income losses.

So how has COVID-19 Coronavirus affected the commercial insurance industry? The pandemic has created a question. How will coverages respond to the losses suffered? Business Income is the most prominent coverage in question. We will take a look at it and other coverages such as Civil Authority, Cyber, Employers Liability, Workers Comp, and General Liability.

Another issue introduced to businesses due to the pandemic is that some companies had to change business models to meet new consumer demands. When a new operational exposure is added, it can wreak havoc. If a loss is sustained, the insurer is unaware of changes and the new operations are excluded.

Lastly, there are several federal proposals that could assist businesses in a future pandemic. One is called Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA) of 2020 (H.R. 7011), A second is H.R.6494 - Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Act of 2020. Another Federal Act in process is called Business Continuity Protection Program (BCPP). The proposals are designed to assist business owners with business income and payroll protection.

How has COVID-19 Coronavirus affected the commercial insurance industry? A captive insurer is owned and managed by its insureds and it insures the liability risks of its owners - and its insureds benefit from the underwriting profits.

Below are some answers to commonly asked COVID-19 Coronavirus commercial insurance questions:

General Liability Insurance Affected By COVID-19 Coronavirus?

Are You Covered?

General liability insurance covers bodily injury or property damage that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay. Bodily Injury commonly refers to sickness or disease sustained by a person, including death as a result.

The insurance company agrees to pay amounts the insured is legally obligated to pay as damages for bodily injury that is covered, but only if the loss is caused by an occurrence that takes place in the coverage territory and occurs during the policy period. It also has the right and duty to defend the insured against any suit that seeks those damages.

However, this right and duty are only for those suits that seek damages covered by this insurance. It is important to understand that GL is not a first-party coverage and does not apply to Employers Liability or Pollution.

COVID-19 has affected all of the United States in some fashion. Many have contracted the virus, but the symptoms are from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some have only exhibited mild flu like symptoms, and others have died.

Currently, it appears that most COVID-19 deaths are not asymptomatic, meaning they had one more other underlying health issues too. So, the question becomes, did COVID cause the death, or did it aggravate another health condition? However, if the person had not contracted COVID-19, would they still be alive? Is something else responsible for the illness or death?

Professionals have more questions than answers too. If we read the policy language, though, it does not appear to separate some of these questions. The debate will more than likely be about where the person contracted the virus.

Businesses that remained opened during the pandemic and businesses that reopened during state phases of reopening could be held liable if a patron becomes ill due to the negligence of the insured. The key is that negligence needs to be proven.

The problem with the claim will more than likely be about where the patron picked up the virus and was the business negligent. How can a person know for sure and precisely where they contracted the virus? Where were they 14 days before the illness?

COVID-19

Could every business that they visited be responsible for the customer's sickness or death? What if the company can provide proof that they were adequately cleaning after each customer? How will the responsible party be singled out?

If a business is not practicing the CDC guidelines, they could be in trouble. All in all, negligence will be difficult to determine.

With that said, an option for carriers could be to use Medical Payments coverage. This could help eliminate some questions since the coverage does not require the establishment of fault. However, there are stipulations for this coverage to apply. The accident must occur on the insured premises the insured owns or rents during the policy period.

Medical payments coverage does have a few essential exclusions to keep in mind, though. All of the exclusions are not mentioned in this article. We are only addressing exclusions that could apply to the pandemic, so please be sure to consult the policy for a complete list of exclusions.

Medical Payments do not apply to any insured, except for volunteer workers. It does not apply to any person hired to do work for the insured, or any tenant of the insured. There is no coverage for injury that occurs on a normally occupied premise, meaning the person injured normally occupies that part of the premises the named insured owns or rents. It will not apply to workers compensation or similar laws and no coverage for athletic activities.

How Is Workers Compensation Insurance Affected By COVID-19 Coronavirus?

Workers Compensation Insurance

Workers Comp insurance covers bodily injury by an accident or bodily injury by a disease, including death that results from either. Only bodily injury that arises from the named insured's employment and during the course of that employment is covered.

Proving whether an employee is in the course of employment is often a major issue for both workers compensation and employer's liability. When bodily injury occurs as the result of a disease, it must be the result of conditions that fall squarely within the named insured's employment. The condition can either cause or aggravate a disease.

The named insured for which an employee is working on the last day of exposure to the conditions which take place, is the named insured that must respond. The policy in force at the time the employee is working during the last exposure is that only one that will respond.

Legal action against the named insured for bodily injury by accident or disease must be brought in the United States of America, its territories or possessions, or Canada.

There are several areas where the pandemic might create loss under a Workers Comp policy, but whether coverage is available will depend on the state.

Employees could have been exposed to the virus by a customer or a coworker. If this happened, all parties exposed were to self-quarantine for 14 days. However, will the worker's comp policy cover their payroll for the 14 days?

What if the employee begins to exhibit the symptoms and becomes ill enough to need medical treatment, be hospitalized, or dies? What if several or all employees are exposed, become sick, or die because of the virus? These are all valid questions that cannot, currently, be answered with certainty.

Coverage will depend on how each state interprets the virus. If the state considered it an occupational disease, then coverage may exist. However, if it deemed it a non-occupational disease, then coverage will more than likely not be provided.

This means that the virus is considered a communicable disease, just like the flu or a common cold. At the time of this writing, only the state of Washington implemented laws that Workers Comp will cover employees for the virus. Other states may follow.

A changing environment makes it critical to adhere to a given state's workers comp policy guidelines in the event of a loss.

How Is Business Income Insurance Affected By COVID-19 Coronavirus?

So how has COVID-19 Coronavirus affected the commercial insurance industry? One standard coverage form defines Business Income as net income that would have been earned or incurred and continuing normal operating expenses, including payroll. Business income for manufacturers includes the net sales value of production.

The coverage will pay for the actual loss of business income from the time that a covered loss interrupts operations until the time that operations can be resumed (usually referred to as the period of restoration). A critical consideration is typical policy language.

Closure must be caused by a direct physical loss of or damage to property at a described location and must be triggered by an eligible source of loss.

Some commercial policies expressly exclude infectious disease, or viruses. If the insurance policy excludes viruses and infectious diseases, then no coverage applies.

Some businesses suffering income loss have challenged what is meant by direct physical loss. Some have argued that the virus may be a form of physical damage because it can remain on surfaces for an unknown time period.

The counter argument has been that, even if it were deemed physical damage, the situation is remedied by cleansing affected surfaces.

Another argument has been made that business income should be granted when a policy does not specifically mention viruses or infectious diseases. However, while silence on a given peril might trigger coverage in certain situations, Business Income protection still requires that operations be interrupted by a covered cause of loss.

Yet another strategy for pursuing loss involves reliance on an insurer's reimbursement as a reasonable expectation and there is pending litigation.

Court decisions today will set the stage for future lawsuits and future policy language. Regardless, the pandemic is having a drastic impact on insurers, insureds, premiums, and coverage interpretation.

Business Income From Dependent Properties

A dependent property is one that is operated by another business the insured does not own or operate, and the insured's business depends on it to deliver materials or services.

If a company experienced an income loss because of a supplier, and they selected optional Business Income from Dependent Properties coverage, they may be protected.

As is the case with basic business income coverage, the supplier's operations must suffer a covered direct physical damage loss for the coverage to apply. Any coverage lasts only for the time it takes the dependent property to re-start its operations.

Further, typical coverage includes a "deductible" in the form of a waiting period (such as 72 hours from a loss date) before coverage is available.

How Is Cyber Insurance Affected By COVID-19 Coronavirus?

Cyber Liability Insurance

Cyber loss exposures have increased due to the pandemic. Many businesses were not prepared for the pandemic, let alone having their entire staff working from home. They did not have a continuity plan in place, so they may have scrambled to put one together.

Details can be overlooked under such circumstances, which may result in greater cyber-attack penetration. One strategic response for many businesses was to allow employees to work from home.

How has COVID-19 Coronavirus affected the commercial insurance industry? Employees working from home pose a greater risk regarding the handling of sensitive information. Businesses have trade secrets; they may collect and store customer's private information. A company is less able to monitor the security of its proprietary and sensitive information when an employee works remotely.

They must depend on their employees to adequately protect the safety of the data by having the right Internet security. Since many employees use personal internet providers, a company is unable to monitor the employee's computer virus protection or if they even have virus protection. Company data is at a higher risk for cyber infiltration when employees are not working on the company's network.

Businesses that wish to protect their data must have the right equipment and software programs in place to accommodate remote workers.

How Is Employment Practices Liability Insurance Affected By COVID-19 Coronavirus?

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), is also known as Employment-related practices liability (ERPL), management risk protection, and employers' errors and omissions. Employers of every size have EPLI exposure.

Allegations by current and former employees may involve anything from unfair discrimination to wrongful termination. During the pandemic, more than 21 million people lost their jobs, increasing the EPLI exposure for every business.

While the Federal Government provided additional assistance to the pandemic-related unemployed, there still existed many situations which could result in EPLI losses. Unfortunately, government assistance is imperfect.

Some workers did not receive full benefits. Others may have received full benefits, but not for a sufficiently long period. Regardless of reasons for any benefit shortcomings, workers may hold their employers responsible.

Some businesses did not fully recover to bring back every employee, or they did not recover at all. This resulted in companies either laying off or terminating employees. Emotions run high when a person loses the ability to support themselves and, if applicable, their family.

Employees may question whether companies made such decisions legally and fairly. Every proper step may have been taken when making decisions, but a lawsuit can still ensue.

Then how has COVID-19 Coronavirus affected the commercial insurance industry? In times like these, EPLI should be a highly recommended coverage for all businesses. It is designed to assist with defense costs and related indemnity awards. Coverage for intentional illegal actions by individuals is often excluded. However, protection may remain for allegations that an employer improperly responded to excluded acts of a given employee.

Typically, EPLI policies bar coverage for Criminal, Fraudulent or Malicious Acts, Contractual Liability, Workers Compensation and Similar Laws, Violations of Laws Applicable to Employers, Strikes and Lockouts, Prior or Pending Litigation, and Prior Notice of a claim.

EPLI forms usually provide supplemental payments for Pre and Post judgment interest. Defense coverage is included in the policy limits. Therefore, applicable coverage may be eroded or exhausted, terminating protection.

How Is The Commercial Insurance Industry Dealing With Insureds Change In Operations Due To COVID-19?

Coronavirus

The pandemic forced many businesses to rethink their business models to remain viable. While many businesses failed, others found ways to navigate the problems created by the health crisis.

Some companies changed the type of items being sold but did not actually change their operations, and others may have made drastic changes to their operations.

If a business was manufacturing beer and then decided to start making hand sanitizer, an insurer needs to know. The insurer may be a market for manufacturing beer, but they may not be a market for producing hand sanitizer. It's the same for a car part manufacturer that decides to begin making medical respirators or face masks.

The new exposures may be too high for an insurer to continue, or they may need to increase the premium by adding the new exposure. On the other side, maybe a business decided to move into selling groceries instead of prepared foods, or a restaurant may have decided to sell a different kind of food that was in higher demand.

If the exposure is low in hazard and incidental to the current operations, then it may not be an issue; however, if it is more than incidental, it could create changes in coverage or premium. Regardless, if there is a change in operations, the insurance company should be informed to prevent gaps in coverage.

Changes in operations could result in a premium increase or decrease, or it may remain the same. For an insurance company to remain solvent, they must obtain the appropriate rate for the risk.

General Liability rates are based on the type of operations, annual revenue or square footage, and the coverage needed or desired. As well, though, there may not be coverage for the new operation or product if the policy excludes it. However, it does not mean that it cannot be covered; it just means adjustments may need to be made to the policy.

There is an area of concern with some of the operational changes. Many restaurants and businesses began delivering to homes and other businesses. Some partnered with third party vendors, while others decided to have their own employees, driving their own vehicles, deliver the product.

Unfortunately, delivery by employees with their own vehicles is not a desirable exposure for most insurers. It is an exposure that requires diligent underwriting and much cooperation from the insured, and not all carriers are willing to provide this type of coverage. There are many restrictions and risk control factors to consider for an insurer to agree to cover this type of risk.

This is due to the significant increase in exposure and hazard created. The auto market is struggling to maintain profitability, so adding delivery exposure could create unwanted action on the auto the policy.

Further, food delivery is typically a costly exposure and coverage that many businesses opt out of due to the cost and restrictions. Also, the employees personal auto coverage may very well exclude delivery.

If delivery is excluded from the insureds policy and the employee's policy, then it will put the business at risk if an employee is involved in an auto accident while making a delivery.

How Has COVID-19 Coronavirus Affected The Commercial Insurance Industry? - The Bottom Line

While insurance is not designed to address losses as significant as pandemics that spread across the entire nation, some type of stop gap is needed to assist businesses facing ongoing catastrophe. And this is where the federal government steps in with orders, bills, laws and regulations.

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Read other informative articles on small business commercial insurance including costs and coverages.


Small Business Insurance Articles

Get useful tips and information about how much commercial insurance costs, small business risks and exposures, how insurance regulations effect your businesses' and detailed descriptions of coverages and exclusions and more. Most small businesses need to buy the following four types of insurance at a minimum to cover their operations from every day risks:

Property Insurance: This policy covers a business if the property used in the business is damaged or stolen as the result of common perils like fire or theft. Commercial property insurance covers the buildings, structures and also business personal property - which includes furniture, inventory, raw materials, machinery, computers and other items.

Liability Insurance: Any company can be sued. Slip-and fall lawsuits are very common and be costly. Customers can claim you injured them or damaged their property - and lawsuits are very expensive. Commercial liability insurance pays damages and can include attorney's fees and other legal expenses. It also ca pay for the medical bills of injured third parties

Commercial Auto Insurance: For vehicles owned by the business. Commercial auto insurance pays bodily injury or property damage costs for which the business is found liable - up the the policy limits for liability and property damage.

Workers Compensation Insurance: In almost every state employers must provide workers comp when there are W2 employees. Workers compensation pays for the medical care of employees and can replace a portion of lost wages - regardless of who was at fault for the injuries.


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