It is safe to say that many businesses will close their doors in response to the pandemic we are currently experiencing. For some this will be temporary, whereas others will not be able to stay afloat while we wait for our world to function as it once did. The questions many business owners have go something like this: Will my insurance company protect me? Can the coronavirus constitute as property damage? If not, how will economic loss be handled by insurance companies? Am I covered under my business interruption policy?
Insurance policies are the most sold and least read document in the world. Think about that for a second. If you are like the majority of the population, that might have hit you pretty hard, especially when you consider the Coronavirus and how it is impacting every single one of us. If you are a business owner, that sentence might have even scared you in a time like today. Below we will lay out the types of things you should be wary of, and what questions your insurer needs to be able to answer for you. First, we’ll start with a little refresher.
For insurance to come into effect, there has to be an “event” which is a “covered loss” – these items are defined policy by policy. There are endorsements and exclusions – usually the endorsements and exclusions either limit the recovery or completely exclude the recovery for exposure or disease type of cases. Once you have that laid out, your policy will have different areas of coverage, the most common being building property loss, ancillary property (offsite or storage area), contents of building, and business interruption.
A coverage area we’re going to address in relation to Covid-19 is business interruption, is held by many small business owners – restaurants, bars, medical and dental offices. Recently, there have been stories circulating of restaurants asking for donations in the form of gift cards or Venmo payments so they can disburse them to their employees. In fact, a restaurant group in our county has done just that. So where does business interruption come into play? Unfortunately, some might not see it at all. For others, it might have a small cap at $25,000, which might not be enough to cover payroll over two weeks time, let alone two or three months. There could even be a sneaky provision that contains a waiting period before that coverage is triggered or available. It is clear here that policies vary widely, and it is your job as the policy holder to understand yours.
Businesses have found another hidden clause in their policies. If the business is shut down via a government or state order, does it qualify under a disaster or damage policy? It might be the case that a disaster is happening outside of the business, but the issue will be whether or not there was a disaster inside, or simply a state order requiring a shutdown. If rather, you have a Covid-19 positive employee, then the closure could be covered in order to properly disinfect the business. Then the problem becomes timeliness and how long it really takes to clean a business, which brings us to our next question.
How long this is going to last? Right now, we have no idea what the period of coverage will need to extend to. If your claim is accepted and you receive $50,000, will that be enough? If your area is seemingly untouched, it might. What if instead, your policy only covers the time it takes to to repair the damaged property. Insurance companies are likely to argue this is a quick process, simply wipe down and disinfect the establishment in a day. However, we know the virus persists in the area and is easily spread in the air, which should therefore extend the period of coverage.
It all comes down to the way policies are written. Insurance companies sell on the big print, “Business Interruption” and pay-out on the small print “Endorsement for Disasters.” As you can see, policies and their exemptions can vary widely. The verbiage alone can and will make the difference in an accepted or denied insurance claim. In the future, will we see an entirely new insurance policy specifically for viruses like this one? These are just a few things to think about. If you have questions about yours, give us a call today at 850-215-7777. One of our skilled attorneys will be happy to answer any questions you may have.