Staying On Track Amid The Pandemic Crisis
By Jack Frazier
“When disaster strikes, a comprehensive insurance program can be a lifeline.” No truer words have ever been spoken. But unlike a static one-strike catastrophe such as fire, flooding, a super storm or earthquakes—when losses occurred resulting from a one-time event—this pandemic ushers open-ended terms like “ongoing” and “continuous” by our leaders and experts. Timelines of 12 to 18 months portend a future that can only be described as The New Abnormal.
As businesses struggle to find pathways back to full operation–and return to what effectively will be the new business environment for everyone—there are steps you can take to ensure all the parts of your insurance lifelines work for you in ways never imagined.
Insurance Payments – Grace Period
For starters, consider your liquidity needs. Your cash is king, president and governor all rolled into one, right? After you’ve access your current cash position, consider your accounts payable going forward starting with your insurance payments. If you are an individual or small business and can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 stop-work order, the Executive Order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 29, 2020, together with recent amendments to the insurance and banking regulations issued by the New York State Department of Financial Services, extend grace periods and give you other rights under certain property/casualty insurance policies in this pandemic. These grace periods and rights are currently in effect but are temporary, though they may be extended further. The regulations for policies written with Excess Lines (non-admitted) carriers vary.
A business qualifies as a “small business” if it is resident in New York State, is independently owned and operated, and employs 100 or fewer individuals. If you are a small business, only certain types of commercial lines property/casualty insurance policies are covered by these amendments, such as property, commercial general liability, special multiperil, workers’ compensation, commercial auto, and commercial umbrella insurance.
If you, as an affected policyholder, are unable to make a timely premium payment due to financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, you may submit to your insurer or premium finance agency, as applicable, a legal statement that you are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. As such, the insurer or premium finance agency, as applicable, is now permitted to accept this as satisfactory proof. Again, the regulations for policies written with Excess (non-admitted) carriers vary.
General Liability & Workers’ Compensation Exposures
Declines in payroll and sales in the construction industry, which have resulted from jobsite shutdowns and work stoppages, have now prompted insureds, brokers and carriers to navigate these uncharted waters together as never before. Rather than make an overreaching decision for their entire portfolio, many carriers have chosen to consider changes in policy terms, exposures, and minimum premiums on a case-by-case basis in an effort to accommodate individual situations.
Project Insurance Terms and Extensions
Many contractors purchase project specific, wrap-up or builders’ risk policies, which are written on a term to coincide with the project schedule. If due to COVID-19, you expect your project to be delayed, now is the time to discuss the necessary extension.
OSHA is treating COVID-19 infections as reportable incidents on a limited basis when there may be evidence that the employee was exposed to the virus at their workplace. The issue of exposure on the jobsite then leads to the question of liability on behalf of the employer to provide a safe-work environment. While it’s still too early to say how this will be resolved, it’s certainly reasonable to expect that there will be legal actions taken that allege failure to provide a safe work environment should an employee or the general public be exposed to the virus. Reports of plaintiff legal acts can now be heard on the airwaves that will plant the seeds of new opportunism amid this crisis, and therefore requiring enterprises to respond through costly legal defense.
Insureds are encouraged to report any claim that they feel may be appropriate. Every claim should be handled on its own merits, and various state governments have begun to ask insurers to review their business interruption coverage positions and limits exposed across their book of business. The implication of this action could be that states may look to compel some level of coverage from insurers regardless of policy provisions.
In normal times, Surety Bond premium payments are billed for and paid upon collection of the first or second requisition (depending on contract terms) by the contractor. Surety providers will defer premium collection on halted jobs for bonds that have been issued where premium has not been billed for, or collected by, the contractor. In addition, your surety provider should be amenable to accepting payment terms for all outstanding premium collections should that be required. It is important to remember that surety credit is a relationship business and as a result many providers will work with their contracting partners to ensure they can sustain their businesses in this difficult time. Actively working with your surety broker is very important in these uncertain times to set expectations and provide timely information to your surety provider.
Foreseeable Insurance Policy Refunds and Credits
While the terms and conditions of the insurance policy, including minimum premiums, are based on the policy language, underwriters sometimes have the ability to amend the policy language to react to circumstances which were unexpected at the time the policy was written. If you believe that your sales or payroll exposures will not support meeting minimum premiums due to COVID-19, early engagement with your broker is the key to developing a solution.
American Global is a privately-held risk advisor and broker for the construction industry. We pair a thorough understanding of construction risk with the credibility our team has earned from underwriters in the construction risk community. The result is tailored solutions and a competitive advantage for our clients. We connect clients with a variety of strategic opportunities – ranging from new business and potential joint venture partners to stable, efficient capacity from insurance, surety, and capital providers. Our clients’ confidence in our team is based on our pro-active approach, expertise, and fair-dealing in the work we do on their behalf. We control our own destiny and will assist with how you can better control yours.
Jack Frazier brings to American Global an array of executive skills honed from over 30 years of experience in the New York Construction Insurance Industry. Having earned the trust of both Management and Labor Organizations, Jack has been instrumental establishing successful Risk Management and Insurance solutions for his clients.
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