Business owners can never know exactly how much liability insurance coverage they’re going to need in order to cover unexpected costs and damages. However, there is an extra safety blanket that businesses can purchase to gain an additional level of financial security. This is called commercial umbrella insurance.
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Commercial umbrella insurance provides businesses with added liability coverage when claims exceed the limits of certain primary insurance policies, such as general liability or commercial auto. Most umbrella policies provide an extra $1 million of coverage. The cost of commercial umbrella insurance varies, but most small businesses get annual coverage for $500 to $1,500.
Business owners can never know exactly how much liability insurance coverage they’re going to need in order to cover unexpected costs and damages. This can be a serious cause of anxiety, especially in this day in age, with the US plaintiffs bar clawing after higher and higher litigation settlements. However, there is an extra safety blanket that businesses can purchase to gain an additional level of financial security. This is called commercial umbrella insurance.
What is a commercial umbrella insurance policy?
|Business Industry||Annual Premium|
|Janitors and Maids||$1,130|
|Architects and Engineers||$1,284|
|Contractors & Construction||$2,410|
Commercial umbrella insurance is a policy that increases coverage limits over other policies and is only used if needed. A commercial umbrella policy is only used in insurance claims if the policies under it are no longer able to protect the risk, meaning they have used all the protections they are allowed to and there is still liability exposure.
For example, the commercial umbrella policy may have general liability, commercial auto, and workers’ compensation policies under it. If a company box truck with liability coverage of $250,000 is responsible for a 10-car pile-up on an icy road, the damages could be $800,000. The commercial auto covers the first $250,000 up to its policy limits and then the umbrella kicks in to pay the rest.
Any business with liability exposure can benefit from having a commercial umbrella policy. Small business owners who interact directly with the public on their own commercial property or on a third-party’s property should assess their need for umbrella coverage. Certain business operations increase chances of high claims or lawsuits.
Typical scenarios where commercial umbrella insurance is needed include:
The biggest factors that drive the need for commercial umbrella insurance are industry type and exposure to the public. For example, construction contractors work mostly on somebody else’s property and they often use dangerous machinery. These factors increase their risk of third-party liability claims, such as bodily injury or property damage, and their need for umbrella coverage.
Commercial umbrella insurance adds coverage to most existing business insurance policies that have liability components. It adds additional coverage to the liability components of those policies that kick in when the underlying policy meets its coverage limits. Having an umbrella is often the most cost-effective way to get higher liability coverage on multiple policies.
A commercial general liability (CGL) policy covers third-party liability for bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury. General liability claims often happen after slip-and-falls or similar incidents resulting in bodily injury or property damage. Claims can be expensive, creating huge financial exposure to companies. Commercial umbrella insurance adds coverage to these liability limits.
Most third-party risk exposure rises when your customers do business with you on your premises. For example, bodily injury or property damage to your customers can potentially turn into an expensive lawsuit that can take the cost of claims above the standard CGL limit of $1 million. To protect against this risk, umbrella insurance is necessary.
Workers’ compensation insurance pays for medical care, rehabilitation services, and lost wages for employees injured while working. In some cases, employee claims can potentially require extended coverage from commercial umbrella insurance. Commercial umbrella insurance extends coverage to assist in covering not just claims exceeding coverage but lawsuit defenses arising from workers’ compensation claims.
Commercial auto insurance has several components that cover third-party liability from at-fault accidents as well as protecting the vehicle insured. A commercial umbrella policy provides additional protection to the liability portion of the commercial auto policy. A commercial auto policy with $250,000 in liability limits gets the added coverage from the umbrella policy.
Hired and non-owned auto liability insurance covers damage caused by the cars your business uses but doesn’t own. This coverage would include vehicles you lease or rent, as well as for your employees’ cars when they run errands for the business. A commercial umbrella policy would extend the liability coverage limit on this type of insurance if the employee injures someone or damages property in an at-fault accident while working.
Commercial umbrella insurance won’t cover claims if you don’t have the appropriate underlying policy in place. For example, if you don’t have a commercial general liability (CGL) policy, your umbrella insurance won’t cover CGL claims. Additionally, there are excluded policies that a commercial umbrella policy will not cover.
Commercial umbrella insurance commonly excludes things like:
Review all policies to make sure you have the most important coverage for the risks you are most susceptible to. At the same time, understand exclusions so you can find either specialty insurance or develop employment practices to mitigate those risks.
As an example, let’s say a customer trips and falls at your place of business and they incur a serious bodily injury that leads to medical costs and an expensive lawsuit. The total claims and settlement charges are $1.2 million. If the limit on your general liability insurance is $1 million, an umbrella policy could cover the extra $200,000. However, if you have no general liability insurance, your umbrella insurance will cover zero claim costs.
Purchasing a commercial umbrella policy is completely optional. The factors small business owners should consider when making their decision include what the existing coverage limits are, how many policies exist, and whether or not they are at the same carrier. These factors contribute to the pros and cons commercial umbrella insurance costs.
The pros of commercial umbrella insurance include:
The cons of commercial umbrella insurance include:
Figuring out how commercial umbrella insurance fits into all your insurance and mitigation strategies can get overwhelming. Below are a few commonly asked questions.
A commercial umbrella policy is not required for a business for licensing or permits. Even if a client requests higher coverage, a small business owner may choose to increase limits on existing policies. However, if a business has more than one policy with liability coverage, it is smart business to get a commercial umbrella policy.
Most small business owners can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $1,500 annually for umbrella liability insurance. Prices are typical for policies with $1 million of per occurrence limits and vary depending on the industry and claims history of small business owners.
The terms excess coverage and umbrella policies are often used interchangeably, but do have a significant distinguishing factor. Excess coverage just increases liability coverage in an underlying policy, while an umbrella policy may broaden coverage. An example is expanding the geographic coverage area by an umbrella policy.
Umbrella insurance will extend coverage for third-party property damage claims but does not extend coverage for business personal property. For example, if a plumber’s van had its brakes fail, causing it to collide into a million-dollar mansion, the mansion is covered but the van and tools are not.
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