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Why are big insurance companies refusing to honor business interruption claims for COVID-19?

Much of our work as a personal injury law firm revolves around enforcing agreements. Individuals and businesses commit to paying hard earned money to insurance companies in exchange for protection in the event they need to use their insurance coverage. In return, insurance companies commit to covering losses and damages resulting from accidents, injuries, and other unforeseen events or disaster. The majority of businesses actually pay for a type of insurance coverage known as “Business Interruption Insurance”, which is supposed to replace the businesses’ lost profits in an event like this.

Ideally, your insurance policy is just precautionary, and you’ll never have to use it. However, when you need it, insurance companies will unfortunately always look for loopholes and reasons to avoid having to pay out what they should. The current situation is an example of wrongful insurance denials on a massive scale, causing many small businesses to give up and others to go under.

What is business interruption insurance?

Business interruption insurance is often a component of what’s known as a business owners insurance policy. It’s intended for when a business suffers losses due to:

  • Sudden closure
  • Mandatory reduced hours
  • Workforce reductions
  • Forced closure by government

When a business suffers a physical loss caused by unforeseen circumstances, the insurance is required to cover things like:

  • Lost profits that were projected to have been earned
  • Fixed expenses, such as operating costs (mortgage, rent, utilities)
  • The cost of moving (if applicable)

No business owner could have anticipated the global disruption and necessary business shutdowns that COVID-19 has caused, which would seem to fit within the spirit of business interruption insurance.

Why are insurance carriers refusing to honor business interruption insurance for COVID-19?

In the Hudson Valley, including Kingston and Poughkeepsie, our region’s businesses are only reaching “Stage One” of re-opening after over two months of mandatory shutdown. Business owners had an expectation that they would be covered for losses by the insurance policies that they were paying for, and put in claims related to COVID-19 interruptions.

They were in for a rude awakening. Unfortunately, nearly all insurance carriers are claiming that COVID-19 related interruptions don’t constitute a “physical loss.” Some insurance industry experts believe that this policy came about after the SARS outbreak, where vague language about an exclusion for viruses was included, without any option to opt into additional coverage for a virus. Many policyholders had no idea that they were left uncovered for the possibility of a widespread virus outbreak.

What should business owners do if they have business interruption insurance?

Even if the text of your insurance coverage says that there are exceptions for viral outbreaks, you may still have a chance at compensation for a business interruption claim. If your business suffered a loss due to COVID-19, you should officially file a claim with your insurance provider to see what they say. Even if your business received a PPP loan from the federal government, or any other form of assistance, you may still be entitled to compensation for lost profits.

If your provider approves your claim, great! If not, you should give us a call at 845-600-0000 to schedule a free consultation. We will review your insurance policy, your provable losses resulting from COVID-19, and come up with next steps for getting the compensation that you’re entitled to from your insurance company.