Insurance & Employee Benefits
Small Business Property Insurance Continued from << Previous Page
sinkhole collapse, building collapse, volcanic action and certain types of damage from water or other liquids.
CAUSES OF LOSS THAT AREN’T COVERED
A number of events that can cause property loss are not covered by the basic BOP. Some, such as employee dishonesty or breakdown of a steam boiler, are excluded from the basic BOP, but you can add coverage to it by payment of an additional premium. Some events, such as wear and tear, aren’t covered because they don’t meet the basic criteria for insurance of being accidental and unpredictable. (Regular maintenance of property is your responsibility.) Coverage for other events, such as flood and earthquake, aren’t needed by all businesses. Separate policies are available. Nuclear reaction and war are considered to be uninsurable, since insurers cannot predict with any degree of accuracy the frequency of such events or amount of damage likely to occur.
The following are some of the other events that can cause damage that are usually excluded from the basic BOP: power failure (except when it causes loss or damage to computers and electronic data); failure of computer hardware or software; robbery and burglary; most instances of pollution; and changes in humidity or temperature. Also excluded is coverage for missing property where there is no physical evidence to show what happened to the property, such as with a shortage discovered after taking inventory.
Be sure you understand what causes of loss are and aren’t covered by your policy. Discuss with your agent the extent to which your business risks a loss from any of these excluded events and whether you should purchase coverage for these particular risks if it is available.
PROPERTY THAT ISN’T COVERED
The basic BOP excludes some types of property from its coverage. For many of these items, such as money and securities or outdoor signs, insurance is available as an addition to the BOP for an additional premium. For items such as motor vehicles or boats, however, you will need to purchase a separate policy. Excluded property usually includes:
You should discuss with your agent what property is and isn’t covered by your policy, as well as whether you may need to purchase additional coverage for some types of property excluded from the basic BOP coverage. Since most businesses, for example, own or use vehicles, they should consider business automobile insurance.
IS THERE ANY COVERAGE FOR POLLUTION?
Coverage for pollution is limited to cleaning up pollution that was caused by a covered cause of loss occurring during the policy period. For example, if vandals opened drums of a toxic chemical and poured it on the ground, the insurer would cover the cost of the cleanup, up to the policy limit, since vandalism is a covered cause of loss. On the other hand, if the toxic chemical slowly leaked into the ground because the drum was defective and had a tiny hole in it, you would not have coverage under the BOP. A defect in the drum is not a covered cause of loss under your property policy. (For help with cleanup costs in this hypothetical situation, you might find compensation from the liability insurance of the drum manufacturer or seller of the chemical.)
BUSINESS INCOME AND EXTRA EXPENSE COVERAGE
If your main business premises are destroyed along with much of the property you used to operate, this loss, though devastating, may be only just one part of the total. You should consider purchasing Business Income and Extra Expense Insurance (also known as Business Interruption Insurance).
Every day you are unable to operate is a day of lost income, for you personally and for the business. If the property damage or loss prevents you from providing products or services to your customers or clients, they may go elsewhere and many of them may never return. If you are to keep your employees, you must continue to pay their wages, even when the business is generating much less than normal income. It is little wonder that many businesses that lack insurance to cover the potential ongoing economic effects of a serious destructive event are unable to survive. A survey by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found that only 35 percent of small businesses, defined as firms with fewer than 100 employees, have business interruption insurance.
Prudent businesses have disaster recovery plans that include insurance to cover lost income and extra expenses that can result from getting back on track after a covered loss.
Because coverage for lost income and extra expenses is so important to continued business survival, it is part of the standard BOP. The policy covers actual loss of net business income that would have been earned had it not been necessary to suspend operations due to a covered cause of loss. The policy also covers continuing normal operating expenses such as utility payments and payroll.
The insurer will pay, as well, extra expenses that you incur to avoid or minimize the suspension of operations. Such extra expenses often include costs to relocate, and to equip and to operate replacement premises, as well as expenses to repair or to replace property and to restore lost information on damaged valuable papers and records.
Generally, these coverages are triggered only when you have a direct loss from a covered cause of loss. If the cause of loss is an earthquake, there will be no coverage under the BOP. If your business must be closed due to someone else’s loss, there is no coverage. For example, your business could be an accounting firm located on the third floor of a large building. If there is a fire on the ground floor of the building, which does no damage in your office but causes the building to be shut down for repairs for a month, your BOP would not provide coverage for lost business income and extra expenses, since you did not have a direct loss yourself.
SEASONAL VARIATIONS IN VALUE
Your business may be one of the many that experience seasonal variations in the value of inventory, raw materials and other items. A complete loss at the height of the summer if you sell ice cream or during the winter holiday season if you have a retail operation may be several times larger than during the rest of the year. To protect against a loss in the busy season, the BOP provides for an automatic 25 percent increase in your policy limit for business personal property. The seasonal escalator applies only if you have insured your business personal property to at least 100 percent of your average monthly values during either the 12 months preceding the loss or the period of time you have been in business as of the date of the loss, whichever is less.
OTHER LOSSES AND EXPENSES COVERED BY THE BOP
The BOP includes numerous other coverages to protect your business from a variety of accidental events that could wreck havoc on your financial well being.
Actions of Civil Authorities – Sometimes physical damage to property other than your own leads the police or other civil authorities to prevent you from having access to your own premises. If the loss at the other property is due to a cause covered by your policy, then the insurer will pay for your actual loss of business income and any necessary extra expense caused by the action of civil authorities.
By way of example, assume you own a hair salon. An explosion has significantly damaged other businesses near you, although your own premises suffered no physical damage. The police close off the whole block for a week, preventing your business from operating from that location. Your insurer will cover your lost income and extra expense caused by this action.