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Although the health and safety of our community is our number one priority during the COVID-19 outbreak, there are many concerns surrounding the degree and duration of disruptions to business activity and daily life. Mandatory and voluntary quarantines, social distancing to groups of 10 or less, restricted travel, and business closures are increasing measures being taken around the United States. These disruptions primarily affect businesses as they begin to lose inventory, revenue, and profit. From mom and pop shops, to tourism hot spots, concert venues, and restaurants the impact will be felt by all. Not to mention that this rippling affect will then be felt by suppliers, contractors, vendors, and service providers.
For insureds and insurers, once-hypothetical questions surrounding COVID-19 are quickly turning to familiar and regular insurance coverage questions such as the availability, scope and limitations of coverage, number of occurrences, exclusions, along with limits, sub-limits, deductibles and retentions. The claims that come out of COVID-19 will also provoke unique question and present their own set of challenges.
First-Party Business Interruption Coverage
First-party policies covering commercial property insurance provide coverage for business income loss by adding an endorsement to the insured’s property policy. This endorsement is designed to protect the insured for losses of business income it sustains as a result of direct loss, damage, or destruction to insured property by a covered peril. Although many such clauses are in use today, a typical business income insurance clause reads as follows:
“We will pay for the actual loss of business income you sustain due to the necessary suspension of your ‘operations’ during the period of ‘restoration.’ The suspension must be caused by the direct physical loss, damage, or destruction to property. The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a covered cause of loss.”
Physical Loss or Damage Requirement
BI coverage is often part of the commercial property policy a business holds. This form adds coverage, in certain instances, for lost business income, contingent business interruption losses, and losses due to certain action taken by civil authorities.
To obtain coverage resulting from the current COVID-19 crisis, the existence of the virus would need to constitute a Covered Cause of Loss, which results in physical loss of or damage to the covered property. This is unlike a fire, hurricane, or flood, which are common causes of losses that cause visible damage to property. As mentioned earlier, businesses are closing, even though there may be no apparent damage at all. But, if the coronavirus is found within the confines of a workplace or business, this arguably constitutes damage to the property, albeit at a microscopic level that cannot be seen.
Duration of Lost Income Claim
Each policy is unique with different definitions and measurements relevant to the period of restoration. Complications can also arise where an insured opts not to resume business operations. However, business interruption typically includes coverage for repair or replacement of property impacted, in addition to loss of business income through the date the damaged property is repaired or replaced.
Calculation and Adjustment of Accepted Claims
Unfortunately, insureds bear the burden of substantiating claimed BI losses. When a claim is being reported, it’s important for the insured to detail and retain documentation for all business activity, direct or indirect cause of any disruptions, and mitigation efforts. It’s also important to note that insureds should be able to value and substantiate losses by referencing business history, benchmarks, and forecasts.
If you have BI coverage on your policy and find yourself needing to temporarily close your doors, we recommend you file the claim with your insurance company. If you are usure if you have this coverage, I am more than happy to review your policy. At Gulfshore Insurance, we specialize in insurance and risk management for the restaurant industry and can answer any questions you may have.
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