Articles Posted in Business Interruption

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As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to surge globally, insurers have closed ranks behind the position that commercial property policies are “not designed” to cover pandemic-related losses, including business interruption. But the various justifications they advance for this assertion often collapse under scrutiny of the relevant policy language. Insurers have taken an early stand on the threshold issue of whether the actual or threatened presence of coronavirus and/or COVID-19 can even trigger coverage as a matter of law, telling both their insureds and the courts that the virus’s presence does not constitute “physical loss of or damage to property,” the event typically required for property policies to respond.

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Many U.S. businesses face income losses from theft, vandalism and resulting curfew orders, which have affected numerous cities in recent days.

Commercial property insurance policies may provide coverage for these losses, which are and should be treated as a separate claim from pandemic-related losses. Property policies cover physical damage to property and, usually, also provide coverage for business interruption losses if certain conditions are met. Whatever position insurers may take on contamination from COVID-19, they cannot plausibly contest that shattered windows, broken fixtures and stolen merchandise are physical loss or damage. And, while insurance policies vary, typically there is business interruption coverage for “Civil Authority” orders, such as curfews requiring businesses to close. Nearly always, such coverage requires the existence of property damage within some limited geographic radius surrounding the policyholder’s location. This often ranges from one to 10 miles. So if your business is closed by a curfew order and, for example, a building down the block had its windows shattered by thrown bricks, or worse, there is every reason to submit a claim. Bear in mind that, depending on the wording of your policy, the trigger for Civil Authority coverage may not be limited to damage to buildings: it may apply to property within buildings and property in the street, potentially including vandalized vehicles. Think outside the box (store).

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iStock-844020236-insurance-claims-300x215The profound impact of COVID-19 leading businesses to file first-party insurance claims is now well known. Further, insurance companies are systematically pushing back on potential coverage for COVID-19, with some issuing blanket coverage denials without investigation. In other words, this is not an ordinary claims environment. Against this backdrop, many policyholders are facing what may be their first significant insurance claim. This primer will familiarize such policyholders with the initial steps of the first-party insurance claims process. Whether a potential claim is related to COVID-19 or not, understanding the claims process is the best first step towards avoiding pitfalls and maximizing chances of recovery.

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In January, we were among the first to post on the insurance implications of coronavirus. Since then, the epidemic has landed on our shores, dragged down the stock market, and become a political football. It has affected supply chains originating in China, with significant results for companies like Apple. And it threatens business continuity in the U.S. It is important to remember that the threat to the economic cycle does not originate from financial forces like a tightening of credit, but in nuts-and-bolts workings of the manufacturing and service economy, where both bottlenecks in supply and a pullback in demand threaten markets. Some of these losses are insurable. This post reviews recent coverage developments and notes practical coverage considerations that companies might overlook.

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iStock-118265197-mask-300x200There has been a drumbeat of news reports about Wuhan, China, a city more populous than any in the United States, which is in effective lock-down because of the coronavirus. Foreign nationals are being evacuated, travel has been restricted, and business is at a standstill. At a time like this, preserving public health is the highest priority. But businesses, both local and global, are also affected by shut-down orders, disruptions to their supply chains, mass sick days, and loss of business. Many, especially providers of hospitality or health care, may face elevated liability risks for exposing others to a contagion. It is important to remember that insurance may be available to meet these risks.

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Hurricane Barry provides the latest reminder of insurance precautions that should always be top of mind for business owners in coastal areas. In “Hurricane Barry: Prepare Now to Maximize Insurance Recoveries,” colleagues Tamara D. Bruno, David F. Klein, Joseph D. Jean, Vincent E. Morgan and  Matthew F. Putorti provide a list of helpful reminders and immediate and proactive steps one should take to maximize insurance recovery before, during and after a tropical storm or hurricane makes landfall.

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iStock-522477922-dollar-dissolve-e1540825087544-300x187Imagine your organization has suffered significant property damage and interruption to your business as a result. The cause could be anything—a natural disaster, severe mechanical breakdown or a cyberattack. You notify your property insurance carrier and adjust the claim, submitting calculations of your losses based on the policy’s coverages and other terms. But in response, your carrier only agrees to pay a fraction of the losses, claiming that otherwise your organization would be better off than before the damage—“unjustly enriched”—and that insurance is not meant for gain, but only to put the insured in the position it would have been without the damage.

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Volcanoes, hurricanes, and polar vortexes—oh, my! From the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, to huge winter storms, massive mudslides, and the unfortunately reliable hurricaneiStock-669273222-natural-disasters-300x300 season, it seems like natural disasters have been near constant over the past year. In addition to the catastrophic toll these events take on people and communities, the toll on a business can be high. Understanding the full range and implications of your company’s risks, and putting the right coverage in place to protect against those risks, is vital. When a natural disaster strikes, having appropriate levels of property damage, business interruption and contingent business interruption insurance can be three keys to stability.

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iStock-623269348-ai-robotics-thumbs-down-300x175Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in industries from manufacturing to the medical profession. Developments in the last ten years have delivered AI technology, once a fiction reserved for the movies, to private corporations and even to everyday homes. Examples include:

  • 2004 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsors a driverless car grand challenge. Technology developed by the participants eventually allows Google to develop a driverless automobile and modify existing transportation laws.
  • 2005 Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot can walk as fast as a human, delivering trays to customers in a restaurant setting. The same technology is now used in military robots.
  • 2011 IBM’s Watson wins Jeopardy against top human champions. It is training to provide medical advice to doctors. It can master any domain of knowledge.
  • 2012 Google releases its Knowledge Graph, a semantic search knowledge base, likely to be the first step toward true artificial intelligence.
  • 2013 BRAIN initiative aimed at reverse engineering the human brain receives $3 billion in funding by the White House, following an earlier billion euro European initiative to accomplish the same.
  • 2014 Chatbot convinced 33% of the judges it was human and by doing so passed a restricted version of a Turing Test.

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A critical component of any insurance policy is of course its limit, which is usually the most an insurance company must pay for a loss. But many property insurance policies include “sublimits” that provide a lower limit for particular losses.

iStock-535435283-sub-300x200Identifying the sublimits in a policy is usually straightforward since they typically appear in a list or chart in the policy’s declarations section. Sublimits generally fall into one of two types: (1) sublimits that apply to particular perils, like flood, Named Storm or earthquake; and (2) sublimits that apply to a type of damage or cost, like debris removal or preservation of property. There are many different perils and costs that a policy may sublimit, and sublimits appear in many types of policies (including, for example, sublimits for coverage for wage and hour claims under an employment liability policy). However, this blog will focus on property policy sublimits. Because many property policies include sublimits that apply to storm-related losses, they may particularly be an issue for companies damaged by hurricanes like 2017’s Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria.

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