Understanding Commercial Insurance Risks and Business Insurance Covers

If you own or manage a business, either large or small, you will require some type of insurance to protect your company against the various risks and potential multitude of claims, that your business will face.

Commercial insurance or Business insurance as it is commonly known, is a complicated area of underwriting and because all businesses are different, and face different risks depending upon the nature of the company, various packages and combined policy covers have been introduced by insurance companies and commercial broker schemes, to make the process easier.

An example of a small business insurance package which is commonly sold online is the Tradesman’s insurance package, which includes all elements of cover required by a small business or self employed trader such as basic liability covers and theft of tools.

Other small business insurance packages that are trade specific and can often be obtained online are available for shopkeepers, offices, surgeries, hotels and guest houses, restaurants, public houses and builders.

Large companies will be offered what is known as a commercial combined policy which has many different elements of cover which can be combined to make a bespoke policy for the enterprise. Most large companies will require some degree of risk assessment before the policy is underwritten, which may often include a visit to the business premises or site, and for this reason these types of larger business usually employ the services of specialist commercial insurance brokers.

Business Risks

The largest risk that a business faces is from liability to others, and the potential costs and damages a company could face if a claim was made against it.

All companies are required by law to have in place liability cover, called Employers liability insurance or EL, to protect their staff against all potential risks and accidents  while in the workplace.

Business liability insurance is usually sold as a package and will always include Public Liability, often just known as PL, which protects the company against claims from the public whilst on the business premises.

A further type of liability insurance called Product liability is also available to companies under a commercial liability policy which protects the company against claims made for design or manufacturing faults in the product.

Company directors can also protect themselves against liabilities with Directors and Officers insurance (D&O) cover.

Property Damage

Most business large and small will have premises that need protection against buildings perils such as fire and flood and commercial property insurance is available to cover all buildings insurance risks. Similarly commercial contents insurance for business premises is available which covers office and business equipment including files and data processing against the common perils. For companies that carry stock, this type of business contents insurance can be extended to cover risk such as deterioration and damage.

For the small businessman who works from home these covers are often available with strict limits of indemnity, as a bolt on to a standard home buildings and contents policy. This type of cover is often effective for self employed people with just a computer and a home office.

Business Contingency Cover

One of the largest problems faced by a business is that of how to continue in business should the worst occur, for example a fire that destroys the premises. In order to deal with this Insurance companies have devised a cover called ‘Business Interruption Insurance’. Based on your previous years annual turnover, this protection insurance covers your company against all losses caused by interruption to trading due to any of the perils mentioned on the policy and will pay out on a indemnified basis for the period of cover agreed in the policy. Most policies will also offer some type of alternative trading accommodation to enable you business to continue whilst the premises are being repaired.

Additional Commercial Risks

Because commercial insurance is designed to cover all classes of business, there are many various trade or business specific covers available which can be added to a combined policy. Examples of these covers include loss of licence to trade, glass cover, goods in transit cover, book debts, commercial vehicle insurance, hauliers cover, warehouse cover, engineering insurance and plant inspection services, and theft by employees.

Outside of most combined policies are additional risks more often sold under separate policy covers, that should be considered to protect your business against all eventualities.

Examples of these are, Commercial Legal Expenses insurance cover which protects the company against claims made by employees for unfair dismissal and allows you to bring cases against suppliers.

Various protection policies are also available for businesses including Keyman insurance which provides cover against the loss of key people within your organisation. Business mortgage protection provides a monthly payment for business premises should you suffer and accident or sickness. Group ASU policies are also available to protect your staff and employees.

Purchasing Business Cover

Purchasing commercial risks insurance can be a daunting experience for the uninitiated small business owner and unless the risks are straightforward and can be underwritten online, it is advisable for all companies to approach the services of a local or regional commercial insurance broker. Insurance Brokers will not only be able to assess the complete range of risks that your business is exposed to, and provide the correct levels of cover, they will more often than not have a unique local knowledge of the risks involved and will be able to negotiate premiums that reflect the nature of the risks. Furthermore, in the event of a claim, and as most businesses will be faced with claims at some point in their trading life-cycle, the broker will handle all the settlement negotiations with the insuring company and allow you to continue what you do best – running your business.

Restaurant Insurance – Current Market For Commercial Insurance Favors Restaurant Owners

The insurance industry enjoyed record profits of $60 billion less than two years ago. In the wake of these prodigious returns, the commercial insurance market was flooded with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of capital. This created an increase in the amount of carriers, as well as a greater capacity to take on risk. Ultimately, the influx of capital into the insurance market has resulted in an insurance environment that is extremely soft, with prices falling quickly. For restaurant owners who approach this soft commercial insurance market correctly, some of the largest premium decreases in years are available.

To understand why such attractive premiums are out there, understand a couple points:

First, insurance pricing is cyclical. The inflated prices simply cannot be maintained in the new commercial insurance environment of 2008. A major reason for this is that most commercial insurance companies are public companies. Thus, their shareholders demand growth. In order to grow, prices must be reduced to entice new clients and retain current ones. In addition, insurance carriers must enter new areas that they have no been active in historically. These carriers are then forced to write new lines of the coverage for industry segments like foodservice, hospitality, and franchise programs.

The second point to understanding the reason for the availability of lower premiums is that in the world of commercial insurance foodservice and hospitality is a niche area. Consequently, there is a limited amount of insurance carriers competing against one another to write a restaurant insurance account when the market is stable or hard. Now consider the reality of 2007 and 2008. You may have found that the number of carriers seeking your business doubled. The impact of this insurance market on niche industry segments like foodservice and hospitality can be exponentially greater than what is happening in the standard insurance market. This large supply increase as demand stays static leads to the falling prices that restaurant owners are now finding.

Why is it that buyers are usually the last people to realize the state of the commercial insurance market? Most policies only get renewed one time each year. The can lead to an information gap because the reality is that buyers rely on their brokers to let them know this critical information about the direction in which the market is headed. With markets shifting course substantially, and quickly, insurance buyers sometimes are not made cognizant of the shift until nearly a year later.

Furthermore, select industry groups, brokerage houses, and insurance carriers themselves usually are the ones formulating reports about the insurance industry. Oftentimes, these reports can lag six months behind. Rarely do they portray a precise picture of the current environment in the market. However, consumer expectations are driven by these reports. Many large companies who settled for a 10% pricing reduction will find out later than they could have gotten reductions of 25-30% instead.

There is no doubt that this inefficiency is the Achilles’ hell of the commercial insurance industry, especially at a time when the industry seems to be cannibalizing itself. For foodservice and hospitality companies it is also a situation that should be taken advantage of, especially in light of the fact that it will eventually swing the other way.

While we are currently in a buyer’s market, do not allow yourself to become careless when it comes to risk management. You can keep your insurance expenses at levels 25-40% lower than your competition by paying close attention to details and working with an expert. Controlling the basic elements of your risk will allow you to enjoy the benefits available in the market regardless of what cycle it is in.

Here are three additional questions you should be asking that your broker might not be answering adequately, or at all:

1) What is my renewal strategy? Keep in mind that you want to work the commercial insurance cycle, not the other way around. In soft markets, it is sensible to cancel a current policy in an effort to capitalize on lower rates. However, when the market hardens, you may want to negotiate 18-month or multiyear rate terms. You have the potential to reduce your restaurant insurance costs by 20-40% over a five-year period simply by paying close to attention to insurance cycles and acting appropriately.

2) Am I overinsured? You have little to no chance of losing every building you insure in any one single event. However, some people continue to purchase coverage for that very unlikely occurrence. If you have ten $1 million buildings in a state, you do not need a $10 million insurance policy. This is wasted coverage and can be extraordinarily costly, especially in a hard market. Your broker should run a Probable Maximum Loss to determine what the appropriate loss limit should be. Depending what your locations are, you realize that you only need between a $2-$3 million policy to cover the $10 million in buildings.

3) How can I effectively manage my loss history? A good broker will assist you in this endeavor, but most do not even mention it. Understand that your insurance losses stick with you for five years, regardless of whether you have two locations or 1,000 locations. Commercial insurance companies use these past losses to help them predict what your future losses may be. This can have a tremendous effect on your insurance prices. If you are like most companies, you have limited knowledge of the details behind the insurance companies’ loss runs. In essence, you are still being charged for a claim that occurred three or four years prior. Have them audited to be sure that details and numbers are accurate.

One point that cannot be overstressed is the importance of choosing the right broker to partner with. Unfortunately, most brokers simply do not handle enough restaurant insurance claims to maintain up-to-date knowledge on the insurance market for the industry. Obviously, the firm you partner with must understand your business, but you need to also be confident that they also are competent in understanding the environment and knowing the markets.

Keep in mind that these people are your representatives. You should choose them as meticulously as you would choose your legal representation. Try not to be a firm’s lone client, but also make sure that you are not a “small fish in a big pond.” A great broker will keep you ahead of your competition, keep you safe, and ultimately add to your bottom line.

You should also make every effort to meet your insurance carriers. Have a relationship with them, in addition to your broker. The carriers need to know you and understand what expectations you have. Not to mention, being on a first name basis will be a big help if you ever need a favor; inevitably you will at some point.

Finally, make sure you are maintaining open dialogue with both consultants and internal employees regarding customer-and-employee injury issues. You have to be tough on claims; but remember that communicating proactively and listening empathetically can turn cut fingers and strained backs into loyal employees and lifetime customers.

Commercial Insurance – A Guide to Lowering Your Cost and Understanding Coverages

Having commercial insurance protecting your business is critical and knowing the different types of coverages available is essential to lowering your cost. Professional liability coverage (aka Errors and Omissions insurance) is a form of insurance that protects businesses that offer advice and services to others. A common form of errors and omissions that gets a lot of attention on TV and the news is medical malpractice. This type of professional liability insurance policy is designed to protect doctors and other medical professionals if harm should come to someone who takes their professional advice and suffers as a result.

Another important form of protection is called business interruption insurance. If you have ever been through a hurricane or an earthquake then you know that it’s not just the catastrophe you need to worry about, but sometimes what happens after. To help you solve the problems that can arise when you are trying to rebuild your business by helping to replace the lost income and paying your normal expenses is what business interruption insurance is designed to do. Some policies may cover extra expenses you can have when trying to get your company back on its feet, but be sure to check your policy for the exact details.

The most frequent coverage needed by small businesses is commercial vehicle insurance. Most personal insurance policies will not cover accidents that happen to vehicles that are being driven while conducting services for the company and are the reason small businesses must get commercial auto insurance to protect their assets. If you don’t have commercial coverage and your company vehicle is involved in an accident you will not be covered. Commercial auto insurance has a range of options, just like personal auto insurance. The first step in getting commercial auto insurance at an affordable rate is to decide what policy options you will need.

While automobile insurance is often unavoidable and necessary, business owners are concerned with the rising cost that they are forced to pay. Many small businesses live in fear when it comes time to shop for their insurance that they will be taken advantage of. Trying to find the best price for your commercial insurance needs is not as difficult as people might think. Prices vary greatly from company to company, so to get the best deal possible, you should shop around. A great first step is shopping online and getting a list of brokers and companies that specialize in commercial business insurance.

Also consider raising your deductible on your policy as this will have a major impact on the price of your policy. The deductible is the amount of money you must pay before the insurance will start paying claims. The higher deductible you have the less you will have to pay in premiums each month. You should also ask you agent about multiple car discounts if you need to cover several vehicles.

While commercial insurance is often unavoidable, knowing the different types of coverages that are available on the market to help protect against loses is a big first step in not only protecting your company, but also lowering the cost of your coverage. By shopping online and following a few important tips you can be sure that you will receive the best possible rates on your next policy.

What Types of Commercial Insurance Should I Purchase?

If you have your own business, you may be bewildered by the range of commercial insurance you need. Some of these forms of insurance are required by law, whereas others might be stipulated by various professional bodies in order for you to practice. In other cases, insurance is advisable though not mandatory.

Types of commercial insurance

The wide range of sub-types of commercial insurance means that it is worth gaining specialist advice to make sure you are properly covered. Some of the most common kinds are summarised below, though the list is not exhaustive.

Employers liability insurance is mandatory, except in very restricted circumstances. Under the law you must arrange cover of at least £5 million. Employers liability insurance protects you against claims from employees that arise in the course of their work. These can include accidents and injury, but also harassment, discrimination and wrongful dismissal, amongst other things.

Public liability insurance provides cover for claims that arise from third parties or members of the public (who are unconnected with your business) in the course of your work. For example, you might need to pay costs in the event of an accident that is your fault that results in injury to a person or damage to property.

Professional indemnity insurance is generally required by those who provide advice in the course of their work. This covers you for claims that arise when that advice is, or is perceived to be, deficient in some way. It is often associated with lawyers and architects, but is a type of commercial insurance applicable to a much wider list of professions.

Directors and officers insurance protects key members of a company from decisions they make as managers. This is important because a claim can be brought against both individuals and a company itself; directors and officers can be held personally liable for decisions made on behalf of the company, meaning their own assets are at risk. D&O can cover you for mistakes made by previous as well as current directors.

Premises insurance. If you have separate premises you will need to organise cover for the buildings and contents. There are various additions for special circumstances, for example if you keep a large amount of cash on the premises. If you work from home then you will need to consider how this affects your home insurance. In some circumstances it will not matter. Generally, though, if your work raises the risk of damage or burglary (perhaps because there are more people coming to your house) then your insurer will be reluctant to cover you without raising your premiums. Similarly if you are keeping valuable equipment or stock at home, you will need to change your policy.

Vehicle insurance. This is mandatory for any driver, but you must also make sure that they are covered for business usage if they are driving their personal vehicles in the course of work. If you are transporting products, you should also consider goods in transit cover.

Personal insurance. There are various kinds of personal insurance you might want to think about if you have your own business. Life insurance is an obvious one, but critical illness cover could also be important (this can often be purchased on the same policy.)

Combined commercial insurance policies

There are many different kinds of commercial insurance, and purchasing individual policies can be expensive. One cheap way to go about acquiring all the different types of insurance you need is to get a combined commercial insurance policy. This allows you to access economies of scale and create a bespoke set of policies that is right for your requirements from a long list of types of cover.