The Separation of Insureds is a standard policy condition of the commercial general liability policy. Also known as the severability of interests, the condition serves several purposes. Still, it can be quite complicated to understand in some of those contexts. As it is increasingly common for contractors to request or demand a separation of insured provision within a business’s insurance policy, companies should make sure they understand the term and how it might affect them.
The commercial general liability policy includes contractual liability as a standard feature, but contractual liability can be a misunderstood term. It sounds like what would arise from a breach of contract, but most liability policies specifically exclude damages resulting from a breach of contract. Instead, contractual liability covers an insured for a contractual agreement to assume the liability of a third party. The most common form of this type of agreement is an indemnification or hold harmless agreement.
Liability rolls downhill. Big companies use their negotiating leverage to demand favorable indemnification clauses and hold harmless agreements be included in their vendor and customer contracts. Some degree of this is reasonable, but there are always a few players who try to push things as far as possible. The result is indemnification and hold harmless provisions that seem to foist all the liability on companies with less leverage without regard to fault or negligence. Many go so far as to seek that the second party indemnify the first party for the first party’s own negligence.
Action over cases have become increasingly common over the past two decades. These cases involve employees collecting worker’s compensation from their employer, and then suing a third party that caused their injuries through negligence who had a contractual indemnity clause with the employer that covers the lawsuit. The prevalence of these suits have led insurance companies to take action by issuing new endorsements aimed at protecting themselves.
No one wants to be sued, businesses especially. They particularly do not want to be sued by their customers or vendors. Many companies invest significant resources into policies and procedures designed specifically to avoid lawsuits. Unfortunately, some organizations choose to view lawsuits as the primary means of resolving disputes with others.
The failure to understand insurance coverage can create significant gaps in a company’s exposure. Businesses need to make sure they understand the terms of their policies when shopping for coverage to make sure what looks like a good deal isn’t paying a little less money for a lot less coverage. Professional liability policies, also known as errors and omissions coverage, can create some of these issues simply because of the way these policies vary from normal insurance coverage.
When people think of property insurance, they often immediately think of buildings – things like houses, retail stores, or warehouses. If they continue the thought further, they may think of additional items of property like furniture or inventory. These items have a very real physical presence, and that physical presence subjects them to potential damage or loss from known hazards like a fire or water damage. Property insurance exists to protect individuals and companies from that loss.
It seems not a week goes by these days without news breaking of another massive data breach affecting hundreds of millions of people. At the end of November 2018, Marriot, the global hotel chain, announced they had been hacked and the personal information of five hundred million preferred customers had been exposed to criminals. What’s worse, Marriott announced the original data breach occurred over four years ago, leaving people unknowingly at risk for identity theft during that time.
Commercial general liability policies provide insurance on a per occurrence basis. What constitutes an occurrence, though, is an area of significant debate. This is an issue that constantly arises in construction cases, especially construction defect. The commercial general liability standard language defines an occurrence as an “accident . . .”. Yet courts have divided on whether faulty workmanship in the course of construction constitutes an “accident” and therefore an “occurrence” triggering coverage under a commercial general liability policy.
Risk transfers are a vital aspect of any comprehensive risk management plan. Theoretically, those in the best position to avoid a risk should always bear responsibility for the risk. The real world does not work that way, unfortunately. Oftentimes, larger companies and larger contractors use risk transfers to try and push liability “downhill” – onto the backs of smaller companies with less negotiating leverage.