COVID 19 just cancelled the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo along with the SXSW music festival in Austin. Whether you believe these cancellations to be difficult-but-sober-minded decisions or the product of pandemic hysteria, Coronavirus is now messin’ with Texas!
Accordingly, here are some friendly-neighborhood-insurance-agent FAQs:
If my business has closed or been reduced due to coronavirus, do I have any insurance coverage for this?
We will NOT sugarcoat it. Even if you have some sort of business interruption insurance, these policies require there to be a covered occurrence or event to trigger coverage. Typically, this has to be some sort of direct damage to your property (e.g., a fire or wind damage). Loss of customers, employees, or any business activity due to cancellations or even government imposed quarantines because of a pandemic WILL NOT trigger that coverage in almost every case we can imagine.
To the extent there is a market for business interruption due to pandemic, it has already closed for COVID 19.
Will workers’ compensation cover illness from COVID 19?
No. First, to be compensable, the illness must be occupational or arise out of the course and scope of employment. Second, the illness must arise out of or be caused by conditions “peculiar” to the work. Like the flu, even if the coronavirus is contracted at work, it is not peculiar to any work.
Can I be held liable for coronavirus exposure?
We never underestimate the capacity of enterprising plaintiff attorneys to find new ways and justifications for filing lawsuits. It is not hard to imagine someone alleging negligence on the part of a business for failing to take precautions against exposure from its own employees. As far as we can tell from reading the standard ISO general liability policy, it does not appear that any of the standard exclusions would apply to such an allegation . . . yet. So, in the unlikely event you are held responsible for coronavirus exposure, there MAY be some insurance coverage for that.
What can businesses do protect to their workers and reduce exposure?
We are sure by now that you have seen several emails and notices about how to reduce your exposure at work. We agree with all of those! Here are the most important tips:
Remind employees to stay home if they are sick;
Practice good hygiene (including good handwashing practices, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces);
Plan for work disruptions or absences (what can be done with employees and workers working remotely);
If you would like a more detailed list or some easy to print handouts, check out this link from the CDC: