Ebola Threat Looms Heavy Over Commercial Insureds

The spread of Ebola has pushed the threat of a worldwide pandemic into the spotlight. According to a Harvard School of Public Health survey, 52% of Americans are concerned about the possibility of a large Ebola outbreak in the U.S. within the next year.

Whether you belong to that percentage or not, the international fixation on the issue grows daily as concern for post-infection plans come to the table. Are you and your business prepared to operate in a highly infectious environment?
One insurance agent noticed a shop owner in Ohio volunteering to close down her business until officials determine the Ebola exposure does not put her clients or employees at risk.

Q: “Is there a business insurance endorsement or provision in the property policy that covers business income and employee expenses when the owner of the business volunteers to stop operations for a situation like this? If employees are infected, does workers comp pick up the treatment costs? And does the shop owner have a liability exposure if a customer gets the infection after visiting her store?”

A: “First, business income coverage is usually triggered by direct damage to property on the described premises caused by a covered peril. Voluntarily shutting down your business because of the possibility of the spread of a disease is likely not a covered cause of loss. But, just in case, read the policy form(s).

In most states, if an employee contracts a disease during the scope and course of their employment, they might have coverage. Case or statutory law could indicate such an infection must arise out of the employment. So someone who gets pneumonia after working in freezing weather on a construction site might not have a valid workers comp claim. You would need to present a specific, fact-based scenario to someone who is an expert in workers comp or labor law in your state for an opinion.

Finally, whether the shop owner has a liability exposure is a legal question for an attorney. Our concern would be whether they have coverage under, for example, a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy. It is possible that there would be coverage absent communicable disease exclusion.

Contact the commercial insurance team of Insurance Partners Agency for insight. Chris Smith, Vice President of Commercial Insurance can be reached at 800-229-5266 x135.

* Excerpt from article by Bill Wilson published 10/21/14. Independent Agent (IA) is the authoritative source of information for professionals who sell insurance for independent agencies. The flagship publication of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, IA offers an unparalleled combination of research, experts and analysis.

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