COVID-19 and business insurance

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These are uncertain and challenging times. With COVID-19 causing global concern, we understand many Canadians will have questions related to commercial insurance. IBC has produced a brief Q&A document outlining how coverage is triggered and how business interruption policies work.

Updated: April 8, 2020

Commercial insurance is complex and specialized, which makes it important that you speak to your insurance representative if you have any questions or need clarification about your coverage.

Will my standard business policy or business interruption policy cover me for interruptions due to COVID-19?

  • Generally, commercial insurance policies and traditional business interruption policies do not offer coverage for business interruption or supply chain disruption due to a pandemic such as COVID-19.
  • Some organizations may have purchased specialized contingent business interruption coverage, stand-alone business interruption coverage and supply chain disruption coverage which may be triggered as a result of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic.
  • Commercial insurance is complex and specialized and specific to your business which makes it important that you speak to your insurance representative if you have any questions or need clarification about your coverage.

How does business insurance work?

Property insurance for businesses is designed to protect the physical assets of a business against loss and/or damage from a broad range of causes. There are two basic policy types:

  1. Named perils – covers only loss and/or damage caused by perils specifically listed in the policy, subject to exclusions. Loss and/or damage caused by any other peril is not covered.
  2. Comprehensive – covers loss and/or damage caused by any peril, unless specifically excluded.

What is business interruption (BI) coverage?

BI coverage is an add-on to an existing business insurance policy. In the event of a business temporarily needing to shut down, BI covers continuing expenses or replaces lost profits. There are three types of BI policies:

  1. Gross earnings policy, which pays only until property or damage is replaced or repaired, or stock is replaced
  2. Profits form policy, which continues to pay until a business resumes its normal, pre-interruption level (subject to policy limits)
  3. Extra expense policy, which is designed for businesses that can remain operational during periods affected by loss and/or damage.

How does BI insurance work?

BI policies are not standardized and include many variants, but most contain language indicating that the insurer will pay for the actual loss of “business income” due to the “necessary suspension” of operations during “the period of restoration.” A number of concepts and nuances come into play, including:

  • Physical damage requirement: Most policies require proof that the insured premises sustained physical damage (for example, from fire, heat, flooding or firefighting efforts) that was covered under their property policy, which caused an interruption that resulted in a loss of business income. A business that is interrupted due to the loss of data or a loss of utilities may not have sustained a physical loss. (There is separate utility loss coverage.)
  • Period of restoration: If BI coverage is triggered, a significant issue is defining the period of indemnity or, as some policies refer to it, the period of restoration. Most policies will pay business income loss through to the point that the business is restored or when the coverage expires (usually 12 months from the beginning of the interruption).

Consumer Relief Measures

To help Canadians cope with the financial impact of COVID-19, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) member companies are offering substantial consumer relief measures. For consumers whose driving habits have changed significantly, IBC member companies are offering reductions in auto insurance premiums to reflect this reduced risk. IBC expects this could result in $600 million in savings to consumers. The reductions will continue for the next 90 days. Additionally, insurers have supported Canadians and businesses who are most adversely affected by honouring requests to defer premiums. Thousands of Canadians have had their premiums deferred.

Insurance customers whose driving habits have changed significantly or who are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic should contact their insurance representative. As it relates to savings on auto insurance premiums, savings will vary depending on individual driving habits.

Many insurers have transitioned their employees to work from home, and insurers ask for your patience as service levels may be strained.

In addition to adjusting premiums for drivers, IBC member companies have also committed to the following measures to help Canadians, which will also apply for the next 90 days:

  • Explore flexible payment options for consumers who are in a vulnerable position or facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19;
  • Waive the NSF fees they would have charged if you have insufficient funds to cover your premium. You remain responsible for any fees your bank may charge you; and
  • If you are temporarily using your car or home differently (for example, you may be using your car to commute to work instead of taking public transit, or you may be working from home) it will not affect your premium or your ability to make a claim.

Insurers are also working with small business and commercial clients to help businesses manage their costs.

Insurers are supporting communities across the country, and some have made substantial donations to help those impacted.

www.ibc.ca

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