Engaging in any kind of commercial activity involves a certain amount of risk. Service providers bear liability for losses incurred by clients due to incorrect or inadequate service delivery. Manufacturers may be liable for damages to leased machinery, environmental hazards, injury to employees or damages caused by flawed products. Construction and agricultural businesses are prone to numerous material risks.
Even accidental injuries on the premises of a business can lead to significant liability claims if it is determined that the business failed to perform due diligence in ensuring that its property was free from hazards.
Because liability claims can potentially run into tens of thousands or even millions of francs – depending on the scenario – it is understandable that many businesses want to insure themselves against claims which could potentially cripple them.
Commercial general liability insurance provides financial protection against many different kinds of liability claims. Swiss insurance providers also help businesses to determine whether they are in fact liable when claims are made.
Which Swiss insurance providers offer commercial general liability insurance?
Commercial general liability insurance is offered by most major Swiss universal insurance companies.
Allianz Suisse offers Basis, Plus and Top policies, with the Plus version extending coverage and the Top version providing optional coverages. Generali offers commercial general liability insurance as a component of its Modula business insurance package. Axa, Helvetia, Mobiliar, Vaudoise and Zurich also offer this insurance.
What is covered by commercial general liability insurance?
The exact coverage provided varies between insurance providers. Generally, policies covers costs resulting from the injury, illness, health problems or death of individuals when the insured business is found to be liable.
Damage or loss of movable and immovable property (rented commercial property, for example) owned by third parties is also typically covered. Liability for environmental hazards for which an insured business is held liable is also normally covered. Liability resulting from the production, delivery and trade of products is also generally covered.
Typically, Swiss commercial general liability insurance also covers the cost of measures taken to prevent covered hazards. For example, the costs of measures taken to prevent an environmental spill or to recall faulty products may be covered.
Some policies also cover liability legal costs resulting from liability claims against insured businesses.
Insurance providers generally offer specialized coverage in addition to their standard coverage. Policies may be specialized to meet the needs of specific industries, and include coverages which are relevant to the industries they serve. Helvetia, for example, offers individual policies for manufacturers, automobile service providers, construction firms, agricultural enterprises, retailers, services, office and administrative firms, restaurants and healthcare professionals.
Other insurers offer a basic policy with the option of adding supplemental riders which suit the needs of your business. For example, Allianz offers 3 standard policies and multiple optional riders which allow businesses to customize policies to match their risks.
Do you need commercial general liability insurance?
Liability claims pose a genuine threat to several businesses. Unless you are confident that the activities which your business engages in cannot result in liability claims being made against it, taking out commercial general liability insurance can be a good move.
What to consider when taking out commercial general liability insurance
Commercial general liability insurance policies are generally very flexible and fairly complex. Getting advice from an independent insurance consultant can help you determine the insurance needs of your business so that you can find a policy to match.
Policies generally have limits on the sums insured per claim. Different limits may apply to different types of liability claims. Policies also typically limit the total insurance benefits which a business can claim each year. Make sure that the limits of the policy which you settle on are high enough to adequately cover liability claims in a worst-case scenario.
For example, Allianz Suisse lets you choose between annual insurance claim limits of CHF 250,000 and CHF 2 million, with CHF 1 million being the default. It also lets you raise the sum insured for individual claims when you take out the policy.
It is also important to carefully review all exclusions before you sign up for a policy. A long list of exclusions apply to commercial general liability insurance, and these vary somewhat between policies. Some policies do not cover liability claims made against subsidiaries outside of Switzerland. Some do not cover liability claims originating in the United States or Canada. Some policies exclude claims resulting from specific health hazards (asbestos, for example). Certain types of vehicles (aircraft, for example) may be excluded from liability coverage. As with personal liability insurance, liability for damages resulting from wear and tear (to rental premises, for example) is generally excluded from coverage.
How to save on premiums
Premiums vary based on the specific coverages included in the policy, the deductibles used and the sums insured. This gives businesses a lot of room to save.
1. Selecting only the coverages which apply to your business and excluding unnecessary coverage is a good way to cut the cost of premiums. Avoid including coverage which is irrelevant to your business. Don’t let insurance agents or other representatives talk you into including coverage which you do not need.
2. Once you have determined what insurance coverage your business needs, requesting quotes from multiple insurance providers is a good next step. There are many variables which can affect the premiums you pay, and insurers generally do not publish their premium schedules openly. Getting quotes based on the exact specifications of your business is the only way to know exactly how much your business can expect to pay. Comparing quotes from many different insurance companies lets you compare applicable premiums and select the most affordable policy.
3. Some insurers let businesses choose the per-claim and per-annum limits for their policy. If the risks associated with your business are not likely to result in very high liability claims, choosing low benefit limits can significantly reduce the cost of insurance. However, you should be sure that insurance limits adequately cover possible liability risks.
Depending on the type of business in question, getting commercial general liability insurance can be a good financial move. Taking time to determine the risks posed by your business and to request and compare quotes based on the company’s specific insurance needs can help you cut the cost of premiums and protect your business from liability claims.