Yes, because the chance that you could suffer a loss begins with the first day of business. You can't get help after the fact. If you suffer a loss and have no insurance or have improper or insufficient coverage, there is very little, if anything, your insurance agent can do to help you. You must be prepared for the risks that are inherent in any business and the losses, sometimes catastrophic, that they can cause.
Also, many states and local jurisdictions require that businesses be insured to begin operating. And if you rent space for your business, your landlord probably requires that you be adequately insured as well.
Every business has some property. And, when you think about it, your business is your property. Just like your home and your car, your business needs to be protected from loss, damage and liability. In addition, your business is your source of income, so you need protection from the potential loss of that income.
Generally, there are two types of insurance - property and liability. Property insurance covers damage to or loss of the policyholder's property. And if somebody sued for damages caused by you or your possessions (other than a vehicle covered by your insurance policy), the cost of the suit - both defending it and settling it if necessary - would be covered by your liability insurance.
Is insurance coverage different for different businesses?
It can be. Many small businesses are now insured under package policies that cover the major property and liability exposures as well as loss of income. A common package policy used by many small businesses is called the Businessowners Policy (BOP).
Generally, these package policies provide the small-business owner more complete coverage at a lower price than separate policies for each type of insurance needed. Your agent can help you decide which policy or policies are right for your business. Additional coverage for property, liability or perils or conditions otherwise excluded (e.g., flood protection) can be purchased as endorsements to a standard policy or as a separate, second policy called a difference-in-conditions (DIC) policy.
Because businesses vary, it is impossible to have a standard policy to cover all contingencies. Also, some businesses, regardless of their size, do not fit the profile of a standard businessowners policy. For example, restaurants, wholesalers and garages have special liability needs that are not met in the standard businessowners policy. Your insurance agent can advise you of the best policy (or policies) to protect you and your business.
Your business may not possess all the following types of property, but you can use this list to make sure that you have considered all the property categories and any insurance coverage that may be warranted:
- Buildings and other structures (owned or leased)
- Furniture, equipment and supplies
- Money and securities
- Records of accounts receivable
- Improvements and betterments you made to the premises
- Data processing equipment and media (including computers)
- Valuable papers, books and documents
- Mobile property such as automobiles, trucks and construction equipment
- Satellite dishes
- Signs, fences, and other outdoor property not attached to a building
- Intangible property (good will, trademarks, etc.)
- Leased equipment
To establish the amount of insurance you need on each, your insurance agent can help you review the types of property you own and their uses. Some of these items are covered in the basic policies. For others, coverage can be added by an endorsement, or rider. And some, like money and securities, may not be covered by a standard commercial policy and may require a second, separate policy.
The best thing to do is to take a complete inventory of all your business property, determine their value and decide if each is worth insuring. Then check to see that the items on the inventory list are included in the basic business property policy and covered for the correct amount. If not, ask your agent about the cost of purchasing additional coverage to meet your needs.
You also need to consider your business situation. Are you planning a major expansion? Does your inventory have a decidedly peak season (like a toy store in December)? Or does it fluctuate throughout the year (like a clothing store)? Is your liability limit high enough in light of the new job contract you just signed? Business policies are designed to be added to or subtracted from to meet your needs. Be sure to discuss changes to your business with your agent so that he or she can be sure your policy still provides adequate coverage.
Some common additional coverages for business property include (although this list is by no means all-inclusive):
Boiler and Machinery Insurance -- Even if you do not own a boiler, you may need this coverage. The term "boiler and machinery insurance" is gradually being replaced with terms such as "equipment breakdown" or "mechanical breakdown" coverage. This insurance provides coverage against the sudden and accidental breakdown of boilers, machinery or equipment, including computer systems and telephones/communication systems. Coverage usually includes reimbursement for property damage, expediting expenses (e.g., express transportation charges), and business interruption losses.
Builders Risk Coverage -- Covers buildings in the course of construction. Depending on the policy, this coverage can be for either the building's value at the time of loss or its full value at the time of completion.
Building Ordinance Coverage -- Provides coverage when a community has a building ordinance stating that when a building is damaged to a specified extent (usually 50 percent), it must be completely demolished and rebuilt in accordance with current building codes rather than repaired. Special attention is required when establishing the amount of insurance.
Business Interruption Insurance -- Covers the loss of earnings as a result of damage or loss of business property. Reimbursement for salaries, taxes, rents, and other expenses plus net profits that would have been earned during the period of interruption can be included.
Commercial Crime Coverages -- Covers money and securities, stock and fixtures against theft, burglary and robbery both on and off the insured premises and from both employees and outsiders.
Debris Removal Coverage -- Covers the cost of removing debris after damage from fire or other covered peril that requires debris removal before reconstruction of the damaged building can begin. This is not part of fire insurance coverage and must be added as an endorsement.
Fidelity Bonds -- Covers business owners for losses due to dishonest acts by their employees.
Glass Coverage --Provides coverage for glass breakage such as store windows and plate glass on office fronts.
Inland Marine Insurance -- Primarily covers property in transit such as from warehouse to warehouse or warehouse to retail store, as well as other people's property left on your business premises, such as clothes left at a dry cleaning business or an employee's personal effects left in the company locker room.
Insurance for Loss of Lease Income or Value -- Covers the loss of income when rental property is damaged or destroyed and the loss of value when the owner of the rental property also used some of its space for business. If the tenant of the destroyed or damaged building is forced to rent space elsewhere at a higher cost, this is called loss of lease value.
More Small Business Tips