Liability insurance terms and definitions
A commercial liability insurance policy pays for losses arising from bodily injury and property damage – real or alleged. It also covers personal injury that happens on your business premises or results from your operations, up to the limits of your policy.
If you’re considering a business liability insurance policy, it helps to know the terms and phrases used to describe these products. Here are some important liability insurance terms and definitions to know:
Bodily injury and property damage liability
The basic coverage for injuries and damages. Examples of covered losses include someone being hurt from a slip and fall at your business, or a person’s vehicle getting damaged while parked at your business.
Coverage for medical expenses to a third party, resulting from a bodily injury for which you or the company are liable.
Personal and advertising injury liability
Coverage to protect you against situations such as an employee speaking or publishing inaccurate information that slanders or libels another person or organization. Also helps protect against publishing material that violates a person’s right of privacy, infringes on a copyright or results in wrongful eviction.
Aggregate limit of indemnity
The maximum amount an insurer will pay for all accumulated claims arising within a specified period of insurance.
A temporary agreement stating that an insurance policy is in effect, often used to protect the insured when policy documents can’t be issued immediately.
The portion of an insurance policy that stipulates the rights and duties of the insured, and the insurer for the policy period. Failure to comply with the conditions may result in insurers refusing to pay a claim.
A restriction on your insurance policy limiting and/or excluding coverage for certain potential catastrophic events, people, property or locations.
A period of time when insurance coverage continues beyond the actual expiration date of a policy that you intend to renew. If the premium is not paid by the end of this period, the policy will lapse.
The restoration of a lapsed or cancelled policy.
The probability of an insured loss occurring.
The identification, measurement and economic control of risks that threaten the assets of a business or other enterprise.
Policy section listing the details of the insured, their business activities, any special terms or restrictions, plus other details specific to the particular insurance and premium.
The insurance company’s right to pursue legal action in the policyholder’s name against the party legally liable for a loss or damage.
Now that you understand the important terms and definitions, find out what’s covered under a general liability insurance policy and get a quote today.
What is ‘Liability Insurance’
Liability insurance is insurance that provides protection against claims resulting from injuries and damage to people and/or property.
Liability insurance policies cover both legal costs and any legal payouts for which the insured would be responsible if found legally liable. Intentional damage and contractual liabilities are typically not covered in these types of policies.
Commercial General Liability (CGL)
Prior Acts Coverage
Umbrella Personal Liability Policy
Professional Liability Insurance
BREAKING DOWN ‘Liability Insurance’
Liability insurance is critical for those who may be held legally liable for the injuries of others, especially medical practitioners and business owners. A product manufacturer may purchase product liability insurance to cover them if a product is faulty and causes damage to the purchasers or any other third party. Business owners may purchase liability insurance that covers them if an employee is injured during business operations.
Various Types of Liability Insurance
Business owners are exposed to a range of liabilities, any of which can subject their assets to substantial claims. All business owners need to have in place an asset protection plan built around available liability insurance coverage. Here are the main types of liability insurance:
Employer’s liability and workers’ compensation is a type of mandatory coverage for employers, which protects the business against liabilities arising from injuries or the death of an employee.
Product liability insurance is for businesses that manufacture products for sale on the general market. Product liability insurance protects against lawsuits arising from injury or death caused by their products.
Indemnity insurance provides coverage to protect a business against negligence claims due to financial harm resulting from mistakes or failure to perform.
Director and officer liability coverage is for a business that has a board of directors or officers, with the insurance covering them against liability if the company is sued. While a corporation by definition offers some amount of personal protection against liability to employees and directors, some companies choose to provide additional protection to those key members of the executive team.
An umbrella liability policy is a personal liability policy designed to protect against catastrophic losses. Generally, umbrella liability coverage kicks in when the liability limits of other insurance are reached.
Commercial liability insurance is a standard commercial general liability policy (also known as comprehensive general liability insurance) that provides insurance coverage for lawsuits arising from injury to employees and public, property damage caused by an employee and injuries suffered by the negligent action of employees. The policy may also cover infringement on intellectual property, slander, libel, contractual liability, tenant liability and employment practices liability.
The comprehensive general liability (CGL) policy is tailor-made for any small or large business, partnership or joint venture businesses, a corporation or association, an organization, or even a newly acquired business. Insurance coverage in a CGL policy includes bodily injury, property damage, personal and advertising injury, medical payments, and premises and operations liability. In the case of lawsuits, insurers provide coverage for compensatory and general damages; punitive damages are generally not covered under the policy, although they may be covered if they are permitted by the jurisdiction of the state in which the policy was issued. The amount of risk associated with the business and the size of the business determines the total coverage.
The policy provides compensation for defending or investigating a lawsuit; court costs including attorneys’ fees, police report costs and witness fees, any judgment or settlement resulting from the lawsuit, medical expenses for the injured persons, etc. Here, insurers retain the right to defend any suit against the insured company arising from bodily or property damages.
Closing the Gaps in General Liability Insurance
Commercial general liability insurance protects against most legal hassles, but it won’t protect directors and officers from being sued or protect against errors and omissions. For these special cases, you need specialized policies. Below, are lesser-known liability insurance policies that are worth considering for your professional coverage needs.
Errors & Omissions (E&O) Liability Insurance
What it covers: Errors & Omissions policies offer insurance coverage for lawsuits arising from rendering negligent professional services or failing to perform professional duties. Lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, or any business providing a service to a client for a fee should purchase this form of insurance.
Coverage: Usually, the coverage includes legal, judgment and settlement expenses up to the limit of the policy. Coverage is offered as per the risk exposures of the insured, as some professionals have more potential exposure than others. Coverage typically starts at $1 million and may have a deductible of $1,000 to $25,000 per claim.
Exclusions: Common exclusions include claims arising from criminal, fraudulent or dishonest acts, bodily injury or property damage, employment-related claims and punitive damages.
Directors & Officers (D&O) Liability Insurance
What it covers: The policy provides protection to directors and officers of large companies against legal judgments and costs arising from unlawful acts, erroneous investment decisions, failure to maintain the property, releasing confidential information, hiring and firing decisions, conflicts of interest, gross negligence and various other errors.
Coverage: There are three main types of directors and officers liability coverage: Coverage A, B, and C (detailed below). The minimum policy limits of liability are $1 million or even $5 million, which is used for defense expenses, expenses of a claim and damages, judgments and settlements expenses. The $1 million limit is per policy and is not shared among individual policies.
Exclusions: Most D&O policies will exclude coverage for fraud or other criminal acts. A compromise is the “segregate clause” in many D&O policies, which provides coverage for the company and other innocent parties that might be dragged into a lawsuit due to criminal actions of another company director. Other typical exclusions are coverage for claims arising out of prior acts, punitive damages, and bodily injury or property damage. However, punitive damages may be covered as per the jurisdiction of the state in which the policy was issued.
Coverage A: This is a personal/employee coverage that covers past, present, and future directors and officers to help them defend themselves against claims alleging a wrongful act and the personal liabilities they encounter for their acts. A company may not be able to indemnify its D&Os directly because either it is not permitted by law or by company bylaws.
Coverage B: This is corporate coverage for the company to the extent that it can or may be permitted to indemnify its directors and officers for claims against them; however, the company is not covered for its own liability. Therefore, during a claim the company receives the compensation; in turn, the company then reimburses the amounts to directors and officers.
Coverage C: This is entity coverage wherein the company is insured against securities claims. Lawsuits naming directors and officers along with other parties are common. The coverage provides protection to the company for its own liabilities in such a situation. Entity coverage basically renders allocation (the portioning off of blame) unnecessary for securities claims. Additionally, D&O policies may be composed of extensive allocation clauses that force the parties to negotiate an allocation agreement. In case both parties are unable to reach an agreement, the policy may provide a default or force the parties to accept arbitration.
Other considerations: Factors such as the size and form of the company, location, mergers and acquisitions, industry type and loss experience determine the premium rates in a typical D&O policy. It is important to note that the insurer does not have the duty to defend the directors and officers. Many insurers allow deductibles if they can identify the individuals named in the legal suit. D&O policies are offered on a claims-made basis; in other words, claims must be made and reported during the policy period. Though the insurer holds the right to oversee the defense and approval of defending strategies, expenditures, and settlements.
Many insurers also include employment practices liability coverage in the D&O policy. The coverage may not be as comprehensive as a traditional stand-alone policy and may offer relatively less coverage.
Nevertheless, certain types of companies are protected under safe harbor statutes. For example, some states have provisions that protect directors of non-profit companies from losses. But safe harbor statutes do not reduce the necessity for insurance—the provisions only protect the individual from a final adjudication but not from a suit being filed.
When Does It Make Sense to Buy Personal Liability Insurance?
Personal liability insurance policies are purchased primarily by high-net-worth individuals or those with sizable assets, but this type of coverage is recommended to anyone with a net worth that exceeds the combined coverage limits of other personal insurance policies, such as home and auto coverage.
In short, personal liability insurance makes sense for individuals who have a higher-than-average risk of being sued, such as landlords.
Homeowners insurance covers liability claims from accidents that occur on a policyholder’s property, but only to a specified limit. Homeowners facing fees beyond that amount could face financial disaster.
Commonly called an umbrella insurance policy, personal liability insurance makes payments on the policyholder’s behalf in cases of property and auto accidents, as well as situations that involve libel, slander, vandalism or invasion of privacy. The policy also covers injuries that occur at secondary residences or seasonal homes, within recreational vehicles, on the premises of rental properties, or on a boat or watercraft owned by the policyholder.
The cost of an additional insurance policy doesn’t appeal to everyone, although most carriers offer reduced rates for bundled coverage packages. Personal liability insurance is considered a secondary policy and may require policyholders to carry certain limits on their home and auto policies, which may result in additional expenses.
Common insurance terms and what they mean
Every industry has its own unique language – and insurance is no exception. Here are some key insurance definitions and terms you might come across as you consider insuring yourself or your stuff.
Actual cash value (ACV)
The value of any property that is lost or damaged at the time of the loss, in contrast to Replacement Cost (RC). See depreciation.
Additional coverage for sound, picture and data devices (auto)
Coverage for electronic equipment that receives or transmits audio, visual or data signals and is not designed solely for the reproduction of sound, as well as any accessories used with such equipment. These devices do not need to be permanently installed in the vehicle, but are attached to a component of the vehicle
Any person or party besides the policyholder who is added to a policy, so that they will also be covered by that policy.
Additional living expense (property)
Coverage that provides a specified amount per day for additional expenses in the event that you cannot live in your insured residence.
Parts made by a company other than the manufacturer of the auto. See original equipment manufacturer.
Agreed value policy
Coverage that will pay the full insured amount of the vehicle or other property in case of a covered total loss, in contrast to stated amount.
A private passenger automobile that is 25 years old or older and has been restored, maintained or preserved by antique automobile hobbyists. Antique, vintage and classic automobiles can be covered with classic car insurance.
An estimate of property value, or of the extent of property damage, provided by an authorized person. Appraisals are performed to determine the value of property at the time of a loss.
Intentional and malicious burning of property.
Bodily injury liability coverage
Coverage for damages resulting in bodily injury or death sustained by others, including covered medical costs, that you become legally responsible for because of a covered auto accident.
Brand New Belongings (also called extended replacement cost)
Homeowners’ coverage that helps replace or repair personal property without depreciation being taken from the value of the property.
Building / additions / alterations coverage (tenant/condo only)
Pays for damages to additions, alterations, fixtures, improvements or installations that you make to your rented residence or condo.
Terminating an insurance contract before the specified end-date listed in the policy.
Request by a policyholder or third party from an insurance company for compensation of losses covered by insurance.
A person requesting an amount for covered losses from the insurer.
A rare or historic private passenger automobile that is 10 years old or older (age may vary by state) and has been restored, maintained or preserved by classic automobile hobbyists. These types of cars are covered by classic car insurance.
Classic car insurance
A type of automobile insurance designed to provide specialized coverage for classic and antique vehicles that meet certain qualifications.
A location near a body of water, including (but not limited to) an ocean, gulf, bay, harbor, inlet, sound, bayou or water that surrounds a barrier island.
Coverage for damage to your vehicle resulting from collision with another vehicle or object (subject to deductible).
Comprehensive coverage (also known as Other than Collision Coverage)
Coverage for damage to your vehicle not caused by collision or upset (subject to deductible). Examples may include theft, vandalism, weather events and contact with animals.
Portion(s) of an insurance policy that explains duties and responsibilities of the insured and the insurer.
Condominium owners policy
Insurance that protects the condominium and personal property of the policyholder and covers the condo owner’s personal liability for covered injuries or damage to others.
Refers to the construction of a building, such as your residence. For example, frame or masonry.
When a policyholder has been insured by one or more insurance companies, without any lapse in coverage, for a specified period of time.
Credit based insurance score
A number representing the likelihood of loss, assigned to insurance applicants, based on credit history. Like most insurers, Nationwide uses a credit-based insurance score to predict insurance losses. Studies show that considering a person’s credit behavior can help in predicting potential losses more accurately. By taking this into account, Nationwide can provide a more appropriate rate for each customer. About half of our existing customers receive a rate decrease based on their good credit scores.
Credit card, forgery and counterfeit money coverage
Coverage that pays for the legal obligation of an insured to pay because of theft or unauthorized use of credit cards (including Electronic Funds Transfer cards) issued to or registered in an insured’s name. This coverage also applies to forged checks and counterfeit money, but does not provide identity theft coverage.
Any after-market add-ons or accessories installed on a vehicle, such as chrome rims, ground effects body kits and off-road lights. (Customization does not include engine performance accessories or modifications.)
A page in your policy – usually the front page – with basic information that identifies the policyholder, the property or vehicles covered, the coverages and the premium amounts. In informal conversation, you may hear it referred to as the “dec[k]” page.
The amount a policyholder agrees to pay before the insurance company covers a loss. In addition to the standard deductible, there can be different deductibles for different types of losses such as wind, hail, hurricane, earthquake, all-peril, collision and comprehensive.
A decrease in the value of property due to wear, age or other cause. Compare actual cash value.
Dwelling fire policy
Coverage offered for property that is, at least partially, rented out to others.
Dwelling replacement cost plus/guarantee
An optional coverage that can provide additional protection above the amount a home is insured for. It is designed to protect against unforeseen increases in the cost of repairs.
A statement added to an insurance policy that alters, deletes or adds coverage, terms or provisions of the policy.
A provision in an insurance policy that excludes and/or limits certain coverages.
A legal document filed if you are convicted of certain traffic violations or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The state may require you to file an FR-44/SR-22 to verify that you maintain auto liability coverage. Both forms are official documents showing proof of financial responsibility, but use different titles based on your state of residence. If an FR-44/SR-22 should expire or be canceled, an insurance company will issue an FR-46/SR-26 form, which certifies the cancellation of the policy.
The address where a vehicle is usually parked or garaged, which could differ from the policyholder’s primary residence or policy mailing address. Students attending school 100+ miles from home with a vehicle should use their school address as their garaging address.
A housing community with controlled entry access.
Industry leader in classic car insurance that Nationwide has partnered with to provide premier coverage for classic, vintage and antique vehicles.
A condition that creates or increases the chance that a loss will occur. For example, a wood-burning stove may increase the chance of a loss from a fire.
“>Homeowners insurance policy
Insurance that protects the dwelling and personal property of the policyholder and covers the homeowner’s personal liability for covered injuries or damage to others.
Hurricane/named storm deductible
Depending on the state of residence, if a policy includes coverage for wind and hail, a separate deductible for insuring damages caused by a hurricane or named storm may be required. Special terms, conditions and deductibles may apply in certain states.
Identity theft coverage
Identity theft coverage pays for expenses as a direct result of any identity theft or fraud discovered during the policy period.
The act of compensating for a loss.
A consideration of value that is insured under a policy. A person with insurable interest will suffer a genuine hardship if a loss should occur to the person or property they’ve insured. For instance, people have an insurable interest in their own lives and property, but generally do not have insurable interest in their neighbor’s life or property. Insurable interest must be present in order for an insurance contract to be legal and valid.
The person(s) or parties who are insured or protected by an insurance policy.
The company that provides insurance coverage and services on a policy.
A type of automobile that is typically sold and made up of separate components that are assembled by the buyer. Kit cars usually require specialized car insurance.
A period of time when someone goes without insurance coverage.
A contract granting use or occupation of property during a specified period, in exchange for a specified rent.
An individual who possesses or has use of property through a lease.
An individual to whom a lease is granted.
Coverage for bodily injury or property damage to others for which you are held liable (as provided by your policy and state law).
A creditor’s claim against an owner’s assets to secure an unpaid debt.
Any party who has a claim on property until the satisfaction of some debt or duty. For example, a bank is the lien holder of a car until the car loan is paid off by the owner.
Limits of insurance
The amount an insurance company will pay for a covered loss, as stated in the policy.
Direct and accidental damage to an insured property or automobile, which is the basis for filing a claim.
Loss assessment coverage
Coverage providing reimbursement for extra fees assessed by a condominium or homeowners association. It is subject to a deductible and the limit stated in the policy.
A history of a person’s automobile or property losses.
Loss of use (property)
Coverage that pays additional expenses when a policyholder has to move out of their residence while repairs are made, as a result of damage caused by a covered loss.
Deliberate damage or destruction of another person’s property. For insurance purposes, it is typically covered under vandalism.
The value of property in terms of what it can be sold for in the open market.
Medical payments (auto)
Coverage for reasonable medical expenses to you and others in the event of an accident, regardless of who is at fault. In your policy, this may be referred to as medical expenses or medical benefits.
Medical payments to others (property)
This coverage may provide payment for medical expenses resulting from an accident on your property. “Med pay” is intended for the immediate medical treatment of guests on your premises, without determining fault. This coverage is subject to specific dollar limits per incident, and availability may vary.
False or misleading statements.
Steps taken to prevent or reduce the amount or likelihood of loss.
Motor vehicle report (MVR)
The record of a person’s driving history, including details of any accidents or violations, as reported to a state’s department of motor vehicles.
The person or entity specifically identified as the named insured in an insurance policy. This person is also referred to as the policyholder.
Named non-owner coverage/policy (NNO)
Written for someone who does not own a private passenger or commercial automobile, but would otherwise meet the qualifications for an auto policy with Nationwide. Situations may include employer-furnished vehicles, borrowing cars from friends or relatives, or frequent use of rental cars.
Covered hazards that are listed in an insurance policy. Also known as specified or named perils.
An auto insurance provider with underwriting standards that accept high-risk drivers.
A driver who is not the usual or most frequent driver of the vehicle listed on an auto policy.
Number of people living in the property.
Ordinance or law coverage
Coverage providing increased cost to a covered loss resulting from an ordinance or law.
Original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
Auto parts that come from the manufacturer, as opposed to aftermarket or salvage companies. An OEM endorsement ensures that aftermarket replacement parts won’t be used to repair your vehicle. Policyholders must have comprehensive and/or collision coverage to add this option. See after-market parts.
A structure located on the residence premises that is not directly attached to the dwelling structure, such as a detached garage or gazebo. It may be insured under a homeowners policy.
Personal effects (RV insurance)
Optional coverage to fix or replace personal property inside your RV that has been lost or damaged.
Personal injury (Homeowners insurance)
Provides coverage for the personal injury to others, such as false arrest, libel (written), slander (verbal), or invasion of privacy.
Personal injury protection (auto)
Coverage for medical expenses to or for an insured in the event of an accident, regardless of who is at fault. May also pay for funeral costs, lost wages and costs for household services. Also known as no-fault. Coverage varies from state to state.
All other property not classified as real property, and which is easily moved. This includes furniture, clothing and household goods.
Personal Umbrella Policy
An extra layer of liability protection for your assets if there’s a serious auto accident or accident on your property and damages exceed the limits of your auto or homeowners coverage limits.
Visual damage to a policyholder’s residential property or vehicle.
A written contract of insurance.
The person or entity specifically identified as the named insured in an insurance policy. This person is also referred to as the named insured.
The amount of money an insurance company charges in return for providing coverage.
The person who drives the vehicle most often. Also referred to as the principal driver.
Primary use (auto)
This is the vehicle’s typical use. “Work” refers to a vehicle that is primarily used for commuting to and from work or school. “Pleasure” refers to a vehicle primarily used for personal errands, trips or vacations.
Anything that has value. There are two types: real property and personal property.
Property damage liability coverage (auto)
Coverage for damage to someone else’s property as the result of a covered accident for which you are responsible. It may help cover the expense of repairing or replacing a car, fence or other property damaged during the covered incident.
Property fire wall
A physical wall with qualities of fire resistance and structural stability. It controls the spread of a fire.
Safety equipment designed to prevent, protect or notify you in the event of an emergency, such as fire extinguishers, dead-bolt locks, fire alarms, smoke alarms and burglar alarms.
Land and the permanent things on it, such as buildings, outdoor fixtures, machinery and equipment.
Rental reimbursement (auto)
Coverage that helps pay for alternative transportation (such as bus, subway or another car) if your car cannot be driven due to a covered loss. In your policy, this also may be referred to as Loss of Use, transportation expense or rental car expense.
Renters Policy (also known as Tenants Policy)
An insurance policy that covers a tenant and some of their personal possessions.
Replacement cost (RC)
The actual cost of replacing damaged or destroyed property with new property, in contrast to Actual Cash Value (ACV).
The physical location of the property for which insurance protection is provided. This is also known as the insured location.
Optional coverage for when you need a tow, run out of gas or have a flat tire. Learn more.
Scheduled Personal Property
Additional optional insurance coverage for high-value appraised personal property that can be added to a homeowners, renters or condo policy. This can include jewelry, furs, or cameras.
Specialty Auto Insurance (also known as Powersports)
Coverage available for other vehicles you own that are not automobiles, such as motorcycles, recreational vehicles, boats, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles.
A legal document filed if you are convicted of certain traffic violations or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The state may require you to file an SR-22/FR-44 to verify that you maintain auto liability coverage. Both forms are official documents showing proof of financial responsibility, but use different titles based on your state of residence. If an SR-22/FR-44 should expire or be canceled, an insurance company will issue an SR-26/FR-46 form, which certifies the cancellation of the policy.
Supplemental heating device
A fuel-burning appliance used as secondary heating source. Includes wood, coal and pellet stoves, cook stoves, freestanding stoves, freestanding fireplaces and fireplaces with inserts. To be insured, all units must have a separate flue, instead of sharing the flue of the primary heat source. A small, portable space heating unit is not considered a supplemental heating device.
A legal document or certificate showing ownership of a vehicle.