Do I need professional liability insurance?

Professionals that operate their own businesses need professional liability insurance in addition to an in-home business or business-owners policy. This protects them against financial losses from lawsuits filed against them by their clients.

Professionals are expected to have extensive technical knowledge or training in their particular area of expertise. They are also expected to perform the services for which they were hired, according to the standards of conduct in their profession. If they fail to use the degree of skill expected of them, they can be held responsible in a court of law for any harm they cause to another person or business. When liability is limited to acts of negligence, professional liability insurance may be called “errors and omissions” liability.

Professional liability insurance is a specialty coverage. Professional liability coverage is not provided under homeowners endorsements, in-home business policies or businessowners policies (BOPs).

Are there different types of policies?

Yes. A person who owns his or her home would have a different policy from someone who rents. Policies also differ on the amount of insurance coverage provided.

The different types of homeowners policies are fairly standard throughout the country. However, individual states and companies may offer policies that are slightly different or go by other names such as standard or deluxe. The one exception is the state of Texas, where policies vary somewhat from policies in other states. The Texas Insurance Department ( http://www.tdi.state.tx.us ) has detailed information on its various homeowners policies. You should consult with a professional insurance consultant to determine which overages best suit your needs.

If you own your home

If you own the home you live in, you have several policies to choose from. The most popular policy is the HO-3, which provides the broadest coverage. Owners of multi-family homes generally purchase an HO-3 with an endorsement to cover the risks associated with having renters live in their homes.

  • HO-1: Limited coverage policy
  • This bare bones policy covers you against the first 10 disasters. It’s no longer available in most states.
  • HO-2: Basic policy
  • It provides protection against all 16 disasters. There is a version of HO-2 designed for mobile homes.
  • HO-3: The most popular policy
  • This special policy protects your home from all perils except those specifically excluded.
  • HO-8: Older home
  • Designed for older homes, this policy usually reimburses you for damage on an actual cash value basis which means replacement cost less depreciation. Full replacement cost policies may not be available for some older homes.
If you rent your home
  • HO4-Renter
  • Created specifically for those who rent the home they live in, this policy protects your possessions and any parts of the apartment that you own, such as new kitchen cabinets you install, against all 16 disasters.
If you own a co-op or a condo
  • H0-6: condo/co-op A policy for those who own a condo or co-op, it provides coverage for your belongings and the structural parts of the building that you own. It protects you against all 16 disasters.
Can I own a home without homeowners insurance?

Unlike driving a car, you can legally own a home without homeowners insurance. But, if you have bought your home and financed the purchase with a mortgage, your lender will most likely require you to get homeowners insurance coverage. That’s because lenders need to protect their investment in your home in case your house burns down or is badly damaged by a storm, tornado or other disaster.

If you live in an area likely to flood, the bank will also require you to purchase flood insurance. Some financial institutions may also require earthquake coverage if you live in a region vulnerable to earthquakes. If you buy a co-op or condominium, your board will probably require you to buy homeowners insurance.

After your mortgage is paid off, no one will force you to buy homeowners insurance.

How much life insurance do I need?

To decide how much life insurance to buy, you need to first figure out what your goals are in purchasing this coverage. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do I want to spare my loved ones funeral costs and outstanding debts?
  • Am I concerned that my spouse or domestic partner will not be able to continue to pay off the mortgage if I die suddenly?
  • Do I have dependents who count on my income?
  • Am I concerned about college savings for my children or retirement savings for my spouse if I die suddenly?

While all situations are different, here are two scenarios to help you think through the questions you should pose to your insurance professional:

Dependents

If you have children, a spouse who does not work outside the home or aging parents who you financially support, you have dependents. Alternatively, you may simply have a spouse or domestic partner who would be unable to pay the mortgage without your financial contribution. In either case, your loved ones will no longer have your income to help them pay the bills and maintain their lifestyle after you are gone. You will have to purchase enough insurance to provide for their future, while considering how much of your budget should be devoted to life insurance.

Some insurance experts suggest that you purchase five to eight times your current income. While this may be a good way to begin estimating your family?s needs, you will also need to figure how much your dependents will need to pay for some or all the following:

  • Cost of owning a home (mortgage, maintenance, insurance, taxes and utilities)
  • College savings
  • Food, clothing, utilities
  • Child care
  • Nursing home or elder care
  • Retirement savings
  • Funeral expenses and estate taxes

Your family may also need extra money to make some changes after you die. They may want to relocate or your spouse may need to go back to school to be in a better position to help support the family.

No dependents

If you are young and plan to have a family in the future, you may also want to consider purchasing life insurance now so that you can lock in a good rate.

Just because you don?t have dependents, does not mean you don?t have responsibilities. For instance, you may be concerned with not being an economic burden to others if you die unexpectedly. You may also want to leave some money behind to close family, friends or a special charity as a remembrance. In this case, you should purchase enough coverage to pay funeral and burial expenses, outstanding debts and tax liabilities, so that the bulk of your estate goes to your family, friends or charities.

Your insurance needs will vary greatly according to your financial assets and liabilities, income potential and level of expenses.

Do I need business interruption insurance?

Business interruption insurance can be as vital to your survival as a business as fire insurance. Most people would never consider opening a business without buying insurance to cover damage due to fire and windstorms. But too many small businessowners fail to think about how they would manage if a fire or other disaster damaged their business premises so that they were temporarily unusable. Business interruption coverage is not sold separately. It is added to a property insurance policy or included in a package policy.

A business that has to close down completely while the premises are being repaired may lose out to competitors. A quick resumption of business after a disaster is essential.

  1. Business interruption insurance compensates you for lost income if your company has to vacate the premises due to disaster-related damage that is covered under your property insurance policy, such as a fire. Business interruption insurance covers the profits you would have earned, based on your financial records, had the disaster not occurred. The policy also covers operating expenses, like electricity, that continue even though business activities have come to a temporary halt.
  2. Make sure the policy limits are sufficient to cover your company for more than a few days. After a major disaster, it can take more time than many people anticipate to get the business back on track. There is generally a 48-hour waiting period before business interruption coverage kicks in.
  3. The price of the policy is related to the risk of a fire or other disaster damaging your premises. All other things being equal, the price would probably be higher for a restaurant than a real estate agency, for example, because of the greater risk of fire. Also, a real estate agency can more easily operate out of another location.
How do I insure my home business?

If you’re running a business from your home, you may not have enough insurance to protect your business equipment. A typical homeowners policy provides only $2,500 coverage for business equipment, which is usually not enough to cover all of your business property. You may also need coverage for liability and lost income. Insurance companies differ considerably in the types of business operations they will cover under the various options they offer. So it’s wise to shop around for coverage options as well as price.

Regardless of the type of policy you choose, if you’re a professional working out of your home, you probably need professional liability insurance. Some types of in-home businesses, such as those that make or sell food products or sell home-made personal care products, may have to buy special policies.

To insure your business, you have three basic choices, depending on the nature of your business and the insurance company you buy it from.