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Business Insurance

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The SmallBusiness.com WIKI Guide to Business Insurance is a collaborative project created by users of the SmallBusiness.com WIKI. It provides an overview of basics related to this topic. Find more guides at The SmallBusiness.com WIKI Guides Hub.

Overview

Running a small business involves a significant investment. Business insurance protects your investment by minimizing financial risks associated with unexpected events such as a death of a partner, an injured employee, a lawsuit, or a natural disaster. Unless you are an employer, business insurance is generally not required by law, however, it is common practice to purchase enough insurance to cover your assets. If your business is an LLC or a corporation, your personal assets are protected from business liabilities; however, neither business structure is a substitute for liability insurance, which covers your business from losses.

Types of Business Insurance

Insurance coverage is available for every conceivable risk your business might face. Cost and amount of coverage of policies vary among insurers. You should discuss your specific business risks and the types of insurance available with your insurance agent or broker. Your agency can advise you on the exact types of insurance you should consider purchasing.

General Liability Insurance

Business owners purchase general liability insurance to cover legal hassles due to accident, injuries and claims of negligence. These policies protect against payments as the result of bodily injury, property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander the cost of defending lawsuits, and settlement bonds or judgments required during an appeal procedure.

Product Liability Insurance

Companies that manufacture, wholesale, distribute, and retail a product may be liable for its safety. Product liability insurance protects against financial loss as result of a defect product that cause injury or bodily harm. The amount of insurance you should purchase depends on the products you sell or manufacture. A clothing store would have far less risk than a small appliance store, for example.

Professional Liability Insurance

Business owners providing services should consider having professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance). This type of liability coverage protects your business against malpractice, errors, negligence in provision of services to your customers. Depending on your profession, you may be required by your state government to carry such a policy. For example, physicians are required to purchase malpractice insurance as condition of practicing in certain states.

Commercial Property Insurance

Property insurance covers everything related to the loss and damage of company property due to a wide-variety of events such as fire, smoke, wind and hail storms, civil disobedience, and vandalism. The definition of "property" is broad, and includes lost income, business interruption, buildings, computers, company papers and money.

Property insurance policies come in two basic forms: 1. all-risk policies covering a wide-range of incidents and perils except those noted in the policy; 2. peril-specific policies that cover losses from only those perils listed in the policy. Examples of peril-specific policies include fire, flood, crime, and business interruption insurance. All-risk policies generally covers risk faced by the average small business, while peril-specific policies are usually purchased when there is high risk of peril in a certain area. Consult your insurance agent or broker about the type of business property insurance best suited for your small business.

Home-Based Business Insurance

Contrary to popular belief, homeowners' insurance policies do not generally cover home-based business losses. Depending on risks to your business, you may add riders to your homeowners' policy to cover normal business risks such as property damage. However, homeowners policies only go so far in covering home-based businesses and you may need to purchase additional policies to cover other risks, such as general and professional liability.

Insurance Requirements for Employers

Businesses with employees are required by law to pay for certain types of insurance: workers' compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, and, depending on where the business is located, disability insurance.

Workers' Compensation Insurance

Businesses with employees are required to carry Workers' Compensation Insurance coverage through a commercial carrier, on a self-insured basis, or through the state Workers' Compensation Insurance program. Visit your state's Workers' Compensation Office more information on your state's program

Unemployment Insurance Tax

Businesses with employees are required to pay unemployment insurance taxes under certain conditions. If your business is required to pay these taxes, you must register your business with your state's workforce agency. The State Taxes page includes links to your state's agency.

Disability Insurance

Some states require employers to provide partial wage replacement insurance coverage to their eligible employees for non-work related sickness or injury. Currently, if your employees are located in any of the following states, you are required to purchase disability insurance:

  • California - Employment Development Department
  • Hawaii - Unemployment Insurance Division
  • New Jersey - Dept of Labor and Workforce Development
  • New York - New York State Workers' Compensation Board
  • Puerto Rico - Departamento del Trabajo y Recursos Humanos / Department of Labor and Human Resources
  • Rhode Island - Rhode Island Dept of Labor and Training

External Links

See Also