Commercial Umbrella Coverage

Umbrella, or excess liability, has become an increasingly critical component of a well-designed insurance program. A bit of a misnomer, umbrella coverage is designed to respond when the underlying liability limits of your various other policies have been exhausted by a claim.

Traditionally umbrella policies were thought of as only necessary for the most sophisticated and large-scale businesses. Today, we help clients understand the value of excess liability at any stage of their business life cycle. The reason? Umbrella coverage, as a function of premium paid for dollars of protection, is relatively inexpensive. Adding protection in increments of a million dollars through excess liability can result in a total limit that is much more suitable in today’s day and age, where lawsuits and their dollar amounts seem to know no limit.

Personal umbrella liability is also available for the owners and stakeholders of a business through Mason & Mason’s personal lines practice.

Guard against:

  • High-dollar claims for property damage and bodily injury where general liability limits can quickly be exhausted
  • Personal Injury
  • Lawsuits involving accusations of libel or slander (some carriers)
  • International risk

We suggest a full review to assess the risk to your business’s current and future value in comparison to your program’s current limits of liability.

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Your Commercial & Small Business Insurance Team

“They have always been there for us in years past, and we are very confident they will be there for us whenever we need to call on them in the years to come.”


Joe Scanzillo, Scanzillo Corporation

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Con-DO or Con-DON’T – Condo Insurance ...

There are some advantages to condominium living. One, people feel, is that the association handles insurance so they skip the hassle of having to arrange their own coverage.  While that’s true to some degree, as with most things in life, it’s more complicated than it appears. There are traps for the unwary. To know what the association is going to take care of you need a copy of the by-laws and the master deed. These documents should be made available to your insurance advisors in order that they may design your coverage to coordinate with the “master policy”.

Questions to ask yourself when determining what kind of coverage you need:

  • Will the master policy cover the parts of the unit that you own? – Many associations are obligated to purchase property insurance that covers all building elements including those owned by an individual.  Others are not and the master policy covers only commonly owned elements of buildings.  The master deed identifies commonly owned elements and delineates the boundaries of individually owned units.  The by-laws indicate the association’s obligation.
  • What deductible has been chosen for the master policy? – If damage occurs in your unit only there is little doubt you will be responsible for the deductible even if the master policy provides coverage.  Many associations choose higher deductibles than an individual would be comfortable with in order to keep condo fees low.
  • Who will provide coverage if you improve your unit by adding higher end cabinetry, counter tops or other enhancements? – The master deed and by-laws will answer this question.
  • What is your exposure for assessments due to uncovered or inadequately covered damage to common elements or high deductibles?
  • Is your investment protected in the event of a total loss? – Again, look to the master deed and by-laws as well as the limit available under the master policy.
  • What will you need to adequately cover your personal property and your personal liability exposures? – Of course, the association will not provide any protection in these areas.  They are usually handled with a Condominium Unit Owners Policy.
  • Is the master policy written on a specialized condominium form? – Forms and endorsements have been developed for condominiums that recognize the special relationship of unit owners and the association in relation to the insurer.  These forms are important in reducing the exposures of individual unit owners.

Don’t assume. Whatever you do, don’t assume that your condo association has you covered. Do some research, get answers and get peace of mind.


Who’s Your Star?

Small and medium-sized businesses often have employees that are “stars.” Sometimes the star is the CEO or president, other times there is a salesperson who consistently outsells every other sales team member by a two to one margin. Maybe you’re a software company that has a star coder whose ideas led to your product being a number one editor’s choice. The point is that most companies have an employee or two that helps their business thrive. What happens to your business in the short-term if a star employee, referred to by the insurance industry as a “key man,” dies?

According to a study conducted by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), only 22% of small businesses carry this type of coverage.

Death is an issue that most people do not like discussing, so many small and medium-sized businesses do not have detailed succession plans, and key person life insurance remains an unresolved issue. It is a discussion that helps your company survive the difficult times that can follow the death of a key person.

What is Key Person Life Insurance?

Key man life insurance protects a business from economic loss relating to the death of a key employee. The company buys the insurance, owns the policy, and is the beneficiary of the policy in the event of the sudden death of the insured. Payment from the insurance company to the business is a lump sum, and there are no restrictions on how the company can use the money. Most companies use the money to stabilize the business until they find the key person’s replacement.

Types of Key man Life Insurance

Businesses gravitate to two kinds of policies for key employee life insurance.

Term Life Insurance. Startups favor this type of policy. Startups always try to conserve cash, term life insurance is cheaper than any other kind of personal life insurance.

Policies that build cash value. Whole life or universal life insurance builds cash value that increases the cash value of the policy and is an asset on the company’s book. The company can get access to the excess cash value of the policy at any time for any purpose since the money from the cash buildup belongs to them.

Life insurance premiums vary between companies and smart companies comparison shop for the best insurance program.

The discussion is uncomfortable, but if you do not have key man insurance, it’s worth talking about.


Internet Defamation – Words Have ...

Social media is a great way build your business’s reputation. Interactivity between merchants and customers has helped many unheard of boutique shops become Internet darlings with maxed out sales. However, fostering social media on your website or participating in social media on another’s blog can be dangerous.

The danger is Internet Defamation.

What is Internet Defamation?
Defamation is when a person makes false statements about your business such as stating that you use discriminatory practices in hiring, or you use dishonest practices dealing with your customers. Making statements like these and putting them on the Internet for anyone and everyone to see is libel. There are important elements for a statement on the Internet to earn the label of a defamatory.

  • The person who published the statement was not the person defamed
  • The statement is a false statement of fact
  • The false statement was understood to be:
    • About the plaintiff and
    • Designed to harm the reputation of the plaintiff
  • Should the plaintiff be a public figure he or she must also prove malice.

Businesses with a presence on the Internet, especially if the Internet site encourages comments and dialogs among visitors need to be especially vigilant monitoring about what other users post on their site. There is a powerful federal law known as Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230). This federal law is part of the Communication Decency Act of 1996. This law has precedence over any local or state laws and protects owners of interactive computer service providers from claims of defamation from postings made through reader’s comments and entries of guest bloggers. In other words, this law gives you, as a web host, protection from claims made from hosting information written by third parties.

Then why should a business watch what third parties say on their site? This is a valid question. You want your site and blogs to promote your brand, not distract from that purpose by allowing a “flame war” on your sites.

Allowing an offensive statement to stay on your site — even when written by a third-party — is off-putting to potential clients and customers.

Imagine: your own employee gets baited into a discussion and tries to defend your business. He then engages in Internet Defamation costing you customers and even cash if a lawsuit against you goes to court. Words have power.

Insurance for Internet Defamation
Even though the Section 230 language and the truth – if what you said is true it is not libel – help keep the threat of you being successfully sued for Internet Defamation lower, it is a risk that your insurance advisor can cover through your BOP policy, your General Liability Insurance, or an Umbrella Policy.

Talk with one of our risk specialists to understand your exposures and the best way to cover them with insurance.