For small businesses, navigating the complex world of insurance can be daunting, but it’s a critical aspect of ensuring longevity and resilience. Small business insurance serves as a safeguard against unexpected challenges, providing financial protection and peace of mind. In this guide, we outline the essential types of insurance coverage that every small business should consider.
Most small businesses need to purchase at least the following four types of insurance.
1. Property Insurance
Property insurance compensates a business if the property used in the business is lost or damaged as the result of various types of common perils, such as fire or theft. Property insurance covers not just a building or structure but also what insurers refer to as personal property, meaning office furnishings, inventory, raw materials, machinery, computers and other items vital to a business’s operations. Depending on the type of policy, property insurance may include coverage for equipment breakdown, removal of debris after a fire or other destructive event, some types of water damage and other losses.
2. Liability Insurance
Any enterprise can be sued. Customers may claim that the business caused them harm as the result of, for example, a defective product, an error in a service or disregard for another person’s property. Or a claimant may allege that the business created a hazardous environment. Liability insurance pays damages for which the business is found liable, up to the policy limits, as well as attorneys’ fees and other legal defense expenses. It also pays the medical bills of any people injured by, or on the premises of, the business.
3. Business Auto Insurance
A business auto policy provides coverage for autos owned by a business. The insurance pays any costs to third parties resulting from bodily injury or property damage for which the business is legally liable, up to the policy limits.
4. Workers Compensation Insurance
In all states but Texas an employer must have workers compensation insurance when there are more than a certain number of employees, varying from three to five, depending on the state. Workers comp insurance, as this coverage is generally called, pays for medical care and replaces a portion of lost wages for an employee who is injured in the course of employment, regardless of who was at fault for the injury. When a worker dies as a result of injuries sustained while working, the insurance provides compensation to the employee’s family. An extremely small business, such as one operated by one or two people out of a home, may not need workers compensation insurance. But it often needs more property and liability insurance than is provided in a typical homeowners policy.
Other Types of Business Coverages
1. Errors and Omissions Insurance/Professional Liability
Some businesses involve services such as giving advice, making recommendations, designing things, providing physical care or representing the needs of others, which can lead to being sued by customers, clients or patients claiming that the business’s failure to perform a job properly has injured them. Errors and omissions or professional liability insurance covers these situations. The policy will pay any judgment for which the insured is legally liable, up to the policy limit. It also provides legal defense costs, even when there has been no wrongdoing.
2. Employment Practices Liability Insurance
Employment practices liability insurance covers (up to the policy limits) damages for which an employer is legally liable such as violating an employee’s civil or other legal rights. In addition to paying a judgment for which the insured is liable, it also provides legal defense costs, which can be substantial even when there has been no wrongdoing.
3. Directors and Officers Liability Insurance
Directors and officers liability insurance protects directors and officers of corporations or not-for-profit organizations if there is a lawsuit claiming they managed the business or organization without proper regard for the rights of others. The policy will pay any judgment for which the insured is legally liable, up to the policy limit. It also provides for legal defense costs, even where there has been no wrongdoing.
4. Key Employee Insurance
Life or disability income insurance can compensate a business when certain key employees die or become disabled. These coverages cushion some of the adverse financial impact that results from losing a key employee’s participation.
5. Umbrella Policies
As the name implies, an umbrella liability policy provides coverage over and above a business’s other liability coverages. It is designed to protect against unusually high losses. It provides protection when the policy limits of one of the underlying policies have been used up. For a typical business, the umbrella policy would provide protection beyond the general liability and auto liability policies. If a company has employment practices liability insurance, directors and officers liability, or other types of liability insurance, the umbrella could provide protection beyond those policy limits as well.
For small businesses, these insurance essentials form the foundation of a comprehensive safety net. By carefully considering and implementing the right mix of coverage, you not only protect your business but also position it for sustained growth and success. While the specific insurance needs may vary based on your industry and business model, these essentials provide a solid starting point for securing your small business against a range of potential risks.