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Apr 09, 2015 | By Caterina Pontoriero
What are the most common property and liability claims for small businesses, and how much do they cost? (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com)
Most small business owners probably worry about theft, property damage, and fire risks affecting their businesses. While these are common claims for small business owners, perhaps they should be more worried about customer injury, product liability, and reputational damage.
The Hartford analyzed small business claims from more than one million property and liability policies over five years, and found that the costliest claims aren’t always the most common.
For example, the most common claim — burglary and theft — is actually the least expensive claim in The Hartford’s ranking of the 10 costliest claims. While 20% of small business owners were impacted by theft and burglary in the past five years, the claims only cost them, on average, $8,000. That isn’t much when compared to the costliest claim, which averages $50,000 per claim.
Here are the top 10 property and liability claims for small businesses, as well as some tips from The Hartford to prevent experiencing some of these claims.
Burglary and theft: 20% (Percentage of all small business claims)
When hiring employees, conduct background checks. Protect your business by ensuring your building has adequate devices installed to control unauthorized entry, fencing and gates around the building and parking areas, and sufficient exterior and interior lighting.
Water and freezing damage: 15%
Maintain proper indoor temperature during periods of extremely cold weather, even when away. Make sure your key employees and personnel know the location of the water shut-off valve. In the event of winter weather, clear roofs and overhangs of excessive snow and ice.
Wind and hail damage: 15%
In the event of a storm, know your business property. Treat and maintain trees that can blow over. Protect windows from flying debris by walking the grounds and moving objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds, and anchor any equipment stored outside that could be moved by high winds.
Fire claims are ranked in the top five of both the most common and costly claims. The average cost for a fire claim is $35,000, impacting 10% of small business owners in the past five years.
Prevent fire from damaging your business by testing all fire and life safety detection and suppression equipment per local and national fire codes. Protect your employees by establishing or updating your emergency preparedness plan, which should include fire evacuation routes. Mark the routes clearly and drill employees in using them.
Customer slip and fall: 10%
Customer injury and damage: >5%
Product liability: >5%
Struck by object: >5%
Reputational harm: >5%
Though less than 5% of small businesses file claims for reputational harm, it is the costliest claim they face. A claim payout can run much higher if a lawsuit is involved, and can average more than $75,000 per case to defend and settle. Based on The Hartford’s claims history, 35% of all general liability claims result in a lawsuit.
The internet can cause your business reputational harm. Make sure to have permission to post photos or other content on your website to avoid copyright infringement, and avoid criticizing a competitor publicly online or to customers.
Vehicle accident: >5%
Screen employee driving records before allowing them to use their car for business purposes, and do not provide incentives to drivers for speedy deliveries.
By Claire Bushey, Crain’s Chicago Business
Alarmed by their vulnerability to everything from sophisticated hacking to the hapless attorney who attaches the wrong spreadsheet to an email, law firms are turning to new must-have coverage: cyber insurance.
In the past few years, the biggest firms have purchased policies to cover the costs of a data breach: notifying clients or employees, conducting a forensic investigation and, if necessary, writing checks to plaintiffs or regulators.
Now midsize and small firms are eyeing the policies, too.
But without a major claim by a law firm against a cyber insurance policy, attorneys shopping for coverage are left with what Matthew Price, associate general counsel at Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner L.L.P., calls “the real $64,000 question, which is: How much is enough?”
The answer to that question varies from firm to firm, says Kari Timm, an attorney who specializes in cyber and privacy liability in the Chicago office of insurance boutique BatesCarey. Insurers base underwriting decisions on both a firm’s size, as measured by the number of employee and client records it maintains, and its practice areas. Mergers and acquisitions are attractive hacking targets because of their access to sensitive information. Firms with health care clients can be at risk because of their potential access to records protected by privacy laws.
A survey of insurance claims information in 2014 by NetDiligence, a Philadelphia-based cyber risk assessment company, found 10 percent of the claims originated in the professional services industry, compared with financial services and health care, which together generated almost half the claims. The median cost for a claim in the professional services industry was $230,000. But Attorneys’ Liability Assurance Society Inc., a Chicago-based mutual insurance company for some of the largest law firms in the country, was not included in the survey.
Moreover, there’s no consensus yet among insurers as to what, if anything, is covered by a law firm’s professional liability policy — the insurance that pays out when a lawyer is sued for malpractice. In August, Attorneys’ Liability issued a memo outlining what expenses its standard professional liability policy would cover and introducing a new product that would limit firms’ cyber risk to $250,000. Foley & Lardner has had cyber insurance for several years now, Mr. Price says, but for firms without it, the memo “underscored how big of a deal it is now.”
When cyber insurance first became available seven years ago, law firms operated on a three-year sales cycle, says Regan Miller, a managing director specializing in law firms at Houston-based broker Wortham Insurance. The first year was to see the broker’s presentation, the second year to build the premium into the budget, third year to buy. Now, often spurred by client requests, they ask to buy coverage starting the next month, she says.
In the news
Lawyers also appear to be reading the news: Cyber insurance sales at Chicago-based BigData Insure L.L.C., which targets firms with 50 or fewer lawyers, shot up in the fourth quarter of 2014 following high-profile data breaches at The Home Depot Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., says Michael Flanagan, director of sales and marketing.
Large firms might spend between $40,000 and $75,000 annually for $5 million to $10 million in coverage, while small firms might pay $3,500 to $7,500 for a $1 million to $5 million policy. “We always see the trickle-down effect,” Ms. Miller says. “Once the large firms do it, then the medium-sized do it.”
Some firms that bought cyber insurance policies a few years ago now are searching for better deals. Sonia Menon, chief operating officer at Neal Gerber & Eisenberg L.L.P. in Chicago, says the firm bought stand-alone coverage at least two years ago but is considering adding more. Insurance carriers that once refused to cover data breaches resulting from a lost laptop now will do so, she notes. As the carriers chase new business, lawyers and brokers predict the competition over what problems policies will cover will extend to premiums.
Mr. Price says Foley & Lardner reviews its coverage more frequently than its other types of business and professional insurance. With the market changing so rapidly, “to be stagnant would not be in our interest.”
Even the companies that run professional development courses for lawyers are capitalizing on the profession’s focus on cyber insurance. Mark Ferguson, general counsel at litigation boutique Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott L.L.P. in Chicago, says the firm purchased cyber insurance a couple of years ago. He has noticed an uptick in management courses promising to educate attorneys on how to protect against the risks associated with a data breach. “Five years ago, I don’t remember seeing a ‘cyber liability for law firms’ seminar, and now I think I see one every couple of months,” he says.
Claire Bushey writes for Crain’s Chicago Business, a sister publication of Business Insurance.