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Also known as commercial general liability, these policies are often the first insurance purchase for a small business owner, since most commercial leases require general liability insurance. The policy covers your business against third-party claims for injury, property damage, and other lawsuits claiming negligence.
General liability does not cover you against claims made by an employee. For that, you need a combination of worker’s compensation insurance and an employment practice liability insurance (EPLI) policy.
What Does General Liability Insurance Cover?
Your general liability policy covers you against lawsuits brought on by any third party who is not an employee. This includes customers and clients, vendors, visitors, and your landlord. Claims may be the result of an injury, errors in advertising, or damage you or an employee cause to another’s property.
If you are sued for a claim covered by your general liability policy, your insurance company helps pay the legal fees associated with defending against the suit. This includes lawyer’s fees and court costs as well as any judgment on behalf of the plaintiff.
Coverage examples include:
- Bodily injuries: A customer trips over an extension cord, breaks a leg, and sues you for damages.
- Property damage: Your delivery driver backs into a customer’s fence and the customer sues you for damages.
- Property damage: There’s an electrical fire caused by overloading a circuit. The landlord sues you for damages.
- Copyright infringement: Your latest marketing blitz includes images that a competitor claims you stole, so they sue you.
- Product liability: A product you manufacture malfunctions and injures a customer, who sues for damages.
- Advertising injury: You or an employee says something in a social media post that a competitor claims is slander or libelous.
What Is Not Covered by General Liability Insurance?
Liability policies do not cover everything. Occurrences that aren’t covered include:
- Employee workplace accidents (you need a workers’ comp policy)
- Wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, and other employee-based claims (you need an employment practices liability insurance policy)
- Professional mistakes (you want a professional liability policy)
- Business property damage (you need a business owner policy/commercial property insurance)
- Data theft/breaches (you want a cyber insurance policy)
This is not an exhaustive list of what is and is not covered by general liability insurance. Coverage varies by provider, as well, so talk to your agent about your policy’s limitations.
Questions to Ask Your Business Insurance Agent
- What’s covered by this policy?
- What isn’t covered by this policy?
- What are my policy limits? [This defines the dollar amounts and includes aggregate (yearly) and occurrence (single claim) limits.]
- Will these limits cover my needs?
- Do I need an umbrella policy?
- Do I need to pay my premium in a lump sum or monthly?
- What is your claims process? [How to submit, when to submit]