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The basic intention of a general liability insurance policy is to cover you for damages that you, your employees, or your subcontractors have caused, whether to someone’s property or person. And, the rule of thumb is this, if you don’t have a policy in place at the time the damage shows up, there is no coverage. In other words, the policy that will respond to he claim is the policy you have in place when someone sees damage from work you did, not the policy you had when you did the work. This is the nature of “occurrence form” policies.
Policies also come with a lot of exclusions. Generally, the cheaper the policy the more things are excluded from coverage. See the list below of important coverages that are generally not on your cheaper policies.
Note: general liability insurance policies do not cover your tools and equipment, unless added/packaged together.
Here is a list of important coverages that are usually excluded on "cheap" policies:
- Prior Work Coverage — Most other policies exclude coverage for damages from prior work.
- Unlicensed Subcontractors Coverage — Most other policies exclude coverage when damage is caused by an unlicensed subcontractor.
- Deductibles — Most policies have a “per claim” deductible instead of a “per occurrence” deductible, meaning you would be responsible to pay a deductible for EACH person who joined in the lawsuit.
- Action-Over — Most policies exclude this coverage, but you could be liable for your subcontractor’s employees’ injuries because of your “unsafe” work environment. They can go after their employer’s workers comp policy, but then they can go after your general liability insurance too.
- Limited to Business Description — If you have this on your policy, then your coverage has been limited to a very specific definition of your operations. Anything outside of that may not be covered.
- Open Roof Damage — Most other policies will exclude this even when the roof is tarped.
- Height Limitation — Most other policies exclude coverage for work over 3 stories.
- Water Damage — Some policies exclude coverage for water damage.
- Paint Over-spray Damage — Some policies exclude coverage for paint over-spray damage.