Most businesses find themselves interacting with employees, contractors, clients, vendors, and others. Any one of these individuals or entities could claim that your business caused them injury or loss and take legal action against you. Whether you need to defend yourself against claims of property damage, bodily injury, libel, slander, or something else, your General Liability Insurance policy would cover you.
General Liabilitiy (GL), also refered to as Commercial General Liability Insurance (CGL), helps protect your business from property damage claims, bodily injury claims, and/or personal and advertising injury claims that could put your business’s assets at risk. For example, General liability insurance helps protect you and your business in the event of the following:
The indemnity provided by a liability insurance policy helps your business cover the costs associated with mounting a legal defense.
In addition, many businesses find that their clients require them to have General Liability Insurance before they’ll sign a contract. Typically, commercial landlords will require this of a Tenant. This means that having the right coverage in place can make a significant difference in a business’s ability to land clients and bring in revenue.
Commercial General Liability Insurance policy protects your business by providing the financial resources necessary to keep it operational when unexpected events (such as a client injury that leads to a lawsuit) throw a wrench in your plans.
A general liability insurance policy provides financial protection from the risks that any business, no matter how careful run it is, might incur. A typical policy covers the following expenses:
General liability policies cover the owners, of course, but it also covers many of the other people involved in your business:
It may be difficult to imagine how your business could cause another person serious harm or even death. But it’s good to know that if you are ever held responsible for someone else’s sickness, injury, or disease, your general liability insurance policy would pay for:
Commercial general liability insurance policies generally include liability protection for services or products completed by your company. So if something your company manufactures or a service your company provides causes an injury, your policy would pay for any resulting legal expenses, as well as damages up to your policy's limit.
If you do not manufacture, distribute, sell, serve, or furnish alcoholic beverages as a business, your general liability insurance policy will cover you if are held liable for a liquor-related accident. If you distribute alcoholic beverages occasionally, such as at a company picnic or office holiday party, you’d also be covered - as long as you don't charge money for the alcohol.
The property insurance portion of your general liability insurance covers damage you may cause to other people’s property as a result of fire, lightning, or explosion, whether you own your business property or rent it. This coverage even applies to other areas in your building that may be damaged as a result of negligence on your part. Let’s say a fire in your office on the building’s second floor causes damage to another company’s offices below. Your liability policy will pay for the damage to the downstairs office space.
Even if your company is not found liable for a claim, the process of mounting a defense is expensive without insurance. A business liability insurance policy will generally pay for:
Personal injury is the part of the commercial general liability policy that protects you should someone claim that your business caused damage that isn’t physical. In the following examples, most liability policies would protect you against any lawsuits related to:
Even if you’re careful and take precautions, it’s still possible that something what your business does – or something what it doesn't do – could damage another person’s property. It’s also possible that your actions might prevent the property’s owner from being able to use it. In such cases, your business liability insurance coverage compensates for:
It is important to note that property damage liability coverage often does not cover damage caused to client property you are working on or have in your possession.
Your commercial liability insurance coverage would cover liability your business might take on when it enters into various contracts, such as:
It’s important to know that if an employee should sue you over an injury on the job, your commercial general liability insurance policy would not cover the damages. For this type of coverage, you need a worker's compensation policy.
Some insurance policies offer businesses an add on option to their general liability policy called “hired auto and non-owned auto” insurance. If you don’t have any vehicles in your company’s name, this option meets the requirements of any contract that requires you to have commercial auto coverage.
This coverage also allows you to save money on at least part of the insurance that rental car companies recommend whenever you pick up their cars. When you rent the car in your company’s name, this insurance applies to the liability part of the rental car contract. You’ll still need to purchase damage insurance from the car rental agency if you want to be fully protected, however, as this option doesn’t cover physical damage to the rented vehicle.
Additionally, if you or an employee is driving a personally owned vehicle on company business, and you have an auto accident, non-owned auto coverage protects you should the company be sued. However, the policy will not cover a suit against you or your employee personally – that would be covered by a personal auto policy.
If a person should be injured, either directly by you or at your place of business, your commercial liability insurance coverage would pay for funeral and medical expenses incurred within a year of the accident. For example, if one of your clients slips and falls at your office and requires medical treatment, your policy would cover the cost of that treatment. Of course, policy limits apply.
Should you ever be sued over something that happens while advertising your company's products or services, your business liability insurance protection will cover the claim. Advertising injuries can arise from:
Occurrence policies cover claims arising from injury or damage occurring while the policy is in force, regardless of when the claim is first made.
Claims-made policies cover claims that arise from injury or damage occurring during the policy period and reported to the insurer during the policy period. Claims arising from events outside the policy period or claims reported to the insurer outside the policy period are not covered unless special coverage is purchased or arranged with the insurer. This special coverage comes in two forms:
If a claims-made policy does not continue (expires, cancels, or nonrenews), you should purchase either run-off coverage from your previous insurer or prior acts coverage from your new insurer to prevent coverage gaps. Generally, claims-made policies may be less expensive in their early years as the potential for claims increases as policy years accumulate.
The differences between claims-made and occurrence policies are best illustrated by the following examples:
Assume you operate a business located in a building that you own. Your customers may enter the building and shop for merchandise in a showroom. On April 15, 2010, a customer slips and falls in your showroom. The customer reports the incident to you but says he does not believe he is injured. On December 15, however, you receive notice that the customer has filed a claim for injuries sustained in the fall.
Occurrence Policy: An occurrence policy with a policy period from June 1, 2009, to May 31, 2010, will cover the claim because the incident occurred during the policy period.
Claims-Made Policy: A claims-made policy with a policy period from June 1, 2009, to May 31, 2010, will not provide coverage because the claim was made after the policy expired. If, however, you purchased an extended reporting period from your insurer when your policy expired, the claim may be covered.