COVID-19 is forcing businesses to face a number of risks, liability and insurance implications.
Companies could seek coverage for a variety of claims stemming from the outbreak, including workers’ compensation, business interruption, liability and more.
And, now that it is a pandemic, the economic fallout may be expansive – hitting your company’s operations in the form of lower sales or supply chain disruptions.
Now is a good time to understand which of your insurance policies could come into play.
Workers’ compensation policies generally extend insurance benefits to employees for injuries and illnesses “arising out of or in the course of employment.”
That wording makes it difficult for most workers to file a claim if they suspect that they got the coronavirus at work, presumably from another employee, customer or visitor to the workplace. But if an employer knows that the virus is in the workplace, coverage could apply.
Workers’ compensation could come into play in the following instances:
- Health care personnel who work where there are patients being treated and tested for COVID-19 would have a strong claim if they contracted the virus.
- Employees who travel overseas for business and contract the illness.
- Employees who are exposed to the illness at work by an infected co-worker.
- Employees who are assigned to work in a location with infected parties.
However, workers’ comp insurance would likely not cover employees who are working on assignment abroad for more than a short time.
One major fallout from the spread of COVID-19 is that it has cut into global supply chains, forcing manufacturers around the world to suspend production. This has been especially true for companies that rely on China for their parts and materials.
But now that the virus has exploded in a number of countries, the threat to supply chains will only increase. This has already started affecting companies in the United States. If your company’s operations are affected or stopped due to the virus, you may be wondering if the business interruption coverage in your property policy or business owner policy may pay out.
Business interruption coverage replaces income that was lost due to a disaster, such as a fire on the premises of the company or one of its suppliers, or a hurricane that hinders a company from operating.
However, any hit to your income from coronavirus would not be physical damage, which is a prerequisite for this coverage. Viruses and disease are typically not an insured peril unless added by endorsement. In many cases, the policy may specifically exclude coverage for viruses and disease.
There is potential coverage through communicable disease coverage under proprietary insurance carrier forms if the insured is closed by a “public health authority” order for closure, decontamination, etc. But it’s worth noting that these usually require the order to happen, so the insured cannot voluntarily decide to close and then claim coverage.
In terms of liability, a third party – customer, vendor or guest – could claim they were sickened on your property and sue your business for negligence for failing to provide a clean facility, which could trigger your commercial general liability policy.
Any company that deals with the public or customers, like a retailer, restaurant, hotel, daycare center or a gym, would be at greatest risk for this type of action.
While the chances of them winning such a case would be small, you could still face legal bills, which your CGL policy would typically cover. If there is coverage, it would come under the policy’s “bodily injury” portion.
Some CGL policies exclude claims arising from a pandemic, virus or bacteria, so read your policy carefully. Many insurers also include broadly worded pollution exclusions that could preclude or limit coverage.
Business Travel Accident insurance (BTA)
This insurance could cover employees who travel on business domestically or internationally, foreign employees of U.S.-based businesses and U.S. employees on offshore assignments. The insurance provides:
- Traditional accidental death & dismemberment coverage.
- Emergency evacuation, repatriation, and out-of-country medical benefits that cover costs for the treatment and transportation of sick or injured employees.
- Optional coverage for unexpected medical expenses.