The following descriptions provide an overview of some typical policies a business owner may consider. Policy terms and conditions vary. It is important to work closely with your insurance provider so that the insurance choices you make minimize any risks and losses that may occur in your business.

Professional Liability Insurance/Errors & Omissions Coverage 

If your firm provides a service rather than a product, you probably have a professional liability exposure. Examples of some industries that have this exposure include medical, legal, accounting, real estate, computer software development, and engineering firms. General liability does not provide professional liability coverage. A separate policy is required, although some miscellaneous industries such as pharmacy and optometry are provided coverage under the standard general liability policy. Professional liability policies are usually written on a “claims made” form rather than an “occurrence form” as are most general liability policies. NOTE: A commercial umbrella policy does not provide excess limits over a professional liability policy.

Commercial Umbrella 

An umbrella policy provides excess limits over any underlying policies that are scheduled on the umbrella policy declarations page. An umbrella policy differs from an excess liability policy in that the umbrella overlays all of your underlying policies. An excess liability policy is designed to provide higher limits for only a specifically identified policy. Most umbrella policies are classified as “following form”. This means that the umbrella follows the form of the underlying policies. Therefore, anything that is excluded in an underlying policy will be excluded in the umbrella. For example, most general liability policies exclude professional liability exposures. Therefore, the umbrella would also exclude this coverage. NOTE: Always attempt to maintain concurrent renewal dates with your umbrella and underlying insurance. A gap in coverage could occur, if these renewal dates are not synonymous.

General Liability 

Your firm needs coverage to protect itself from bodily injury and property damage claims. Standardized sets of general liability codes have been developed that most insurance carriers use to rate your general liability premium. These codes give a basic description of your operations. For example, a water and sewer main construction company would have one code while a law firm would have another. Usually, these codes are rated on payroll, sales, or square footage of your office. Keep in mind that some carriers have developed their own set of GL codes to provide themselves a competitive advantage in specific industries. There are two parts to general liability: premises and operations coverage and products and completed operations coverage. Premises claims occur on your premises (for example, a person slips and falls in your store), while an operations claim refers to an accident that occurs during the course of your work (for example, your salesman knocks an expensive vase off a customer’s desk while he is attempting to setup a product demonstration). Product liability claims refer to alleged injuries that occur because your product is inherently unsafe (silicon breast implants are an example). Complete operations claims refer to accidents that occur after you have completed your work. For example, an electrician makes an error in wiring a panel. A month later, an overload occurs because of the error causing a fire. Engineering design and build firms will often find that product liability and completed operations are excluded under their general liability policy as it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between a completed operations claim and a professional liability claim.

Workers’ Compensation 

This policy provides coverage for on-the-job injuries to your employees. Your firm is protected against other litigation related to the injury with this coverage in force. Workers’ compensation is rated similarly to general liability in that each class of employees is identified by a unique code that should correspond with your general liability codes. Each code has a specific rate per $100 of payroll and is subject to audit at expiration.


Your commercial property includes among other things: buildings, office equipment, manufacturing equipment, inventory, and work in progress. Always try to get the broadest coverage possible. Many carriers no longer use “all risk” terminology as property policies have a number of exclusions such as flood and earthquake. Quite a number of carriers are now offering endorsements that offer a broad range of additional coverages. Be sure to request selling price coverage for your finished goods in inventory. In a loss, these goods would then be covered at their sales price as op-posed to the manufacturing cost. Property insurance only covers property on your premises. If an employee is taking equipment off site or if you are storing inventory at a job site, these items must be covered on a separate policy.

Business Automobile Policy 

Vehicles titled in a company name need to be covered under a business auto policy.

Commercial autos are rated on the basis of their use and range of operation. Many policies do not provide automatic coverage for newly acquired vehicles so be certain that you schedule all vehicles as they are acquired. Even if you don’t have any company owned vehicles, it is wise to obtain a policy that provides Hired and Non-owned liability coverage. This policy offers protection to your firm in the event an employee is involved in an accident while driving his or her vehicle on company time. For example, a salesperson could be involved in an accident that could ultimately lead to a suit against your firm. The employee’s coverage is primary. The business auto policy only protects the firm and does not offer any coverage for the employee’s vehicle. NOTE: Schedule all trailers on your business auto policy. Otherwise, there may be no coverage should a trailer come loose from one of your units and cause an accident.

Business Income and Extra Expense Coverage 

This coverage acts like a disability income policy for your firm. The three most common forms of this coverage are 1) loss of rents, 2) business interruption, and 3) extra expense. Loss of rents coverage replaces the lost rental income from your damaged or destroyed property. For example, if three buildings in the apartment complex you own burn, this policy would replace your loss of rental income while the structures are being reconstructed. Business interruption replaces lost income if you are unable to produce goods for sale as your site is being reconstructed. An extended period of indemnity can be obtained to help replace income after operations have resumed as it may be difficult to immediately return to pre-accident revenue levels. Extra expense coverage provides cash to enable a firm to reestablish its operations in a more rapid fashion. For example, if you have a service business that does not require large amounts of fixed equipment to operate, with some extra money you could rent temporary space, computer equipment, and a telephone system. In a short amount of time, your firm can be up and running.

Building Ordinance or Law Coverage 

Building ordinance coverage is overlooked by many insureds and insurance agents. If you own your own building, this is an extremely important coverage. In the event of significant damage to your building, local governing authorities may require you to meet all current building ordinances prior to receiving a new certificate of occupancy. Simply meeting new fire codes and ADA requirements could be extremely costly.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance 

This liability exposure is generally excluded in your general liability policy. EPL policies pro-vide coverage for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, discrimination, violations of parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and related issues. Companies with multiple locations and multiple shifts should consider this coverage. Premiums have dropped significantly since the coverage first became available a few years ago.

Boiler & Machinery 

Not too many companies have boilers, but everyone has heating and air conditioning as well as electric systems. This coverage protects you from failures in these systems. Even if you are only renting a space, you may be responsible for such items in your lease. This is an inexpensive cover-age that is often overlooked.

Inland Marine 

This is a generic term for a wide range of miscellaneous policies that cover specific circumstances. These policies are sometimes called floater policies and generally cover goods that are “floating” between locations. For example, cargo insurance is available to cover goods shipped on a common carrier. Exhibition floaters cover your demonstration equipment set up at a trade show. Salesmen’s equipment can cover laptop computers used in the field by your staff.

Directors & Officers Liability 

D&O provides coverage for claims against company directors alleging mismanagement of a firm. As a member of a board, directors and officers are personally liable for claims against the board. Firms normally indemnify board members; however, if the company is unable to fulfill its indemnification, the D&O policy will protect the members. D&O policies now offer extremely broad coverages. Employment Practice Liability can be included which protects you from suits alleging discrimination, wrongful termination, and sexual harassment. Coverage for Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) violations can be included to cover stock offerings and private placements. Retroactive coverage to the date of incorporation of the firm is often available. NOTE: D&O covers individual board members, not the actual entity firm. If you have the potential to lose a suit, it is important to discuss the allocation of the settlement beforehand. The insurance company may want to allocate as much as possible against the firm to reduce their expense. Board members will pursue the alternative course of action. There are now policies available that include entity coverage. Additionally, some jurisdictions now limit allocations against an entity.