Florida Commercial Liability Insurance: The Basics

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

If you have a business, there are many potential financial threats that you must anticipate and overcome.  Lawsuits brought by a person injured on the premises of your business can expose you to claims for property damage and bodily injury.  If you have a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy, you policy is supposed to protect you from liability claims.  When the financial future of your business is threatened by the cost of litigation and/or a judgment or settlement, an experienced Miami commercial insurance attorney can protect your interest if your insurance company fails to fulfill its obligations under your commercial policy.

A general liability policy is comprised of two distinct types of coverage: (1) defense coverage; and (2) indemnification.  Defense coverage means that the insurance company will cover the cost of defense when you are sued for liability.  Indemnification coverage means that the insurance carrier will cover the amount of liability resulting from a judgment or settlement.  CGL coverage is essential to the survival of a business because even a single liability claim can financially devastate the business.

These types of policies apply to a range of losses, and the terms of the policies are extremely broad.  However, these policies also are riddled with exclusions and limitations.  Commercial policies also are intentionally made difficult to understand.  A Florida judge has put it succinctly, “[I]nsurance policies are prepared by experts in this complex area, and the intricate interplay of their various provisions is difficult for a layman to understand.”

Commercial insurance carriers often refuse to provide a defense or to cover the settlement or judgment in a liability claim.  The insurance company might point to a specific policy exclusion when denying a claim, or the carrier might claim that the type of loss is not covered by the policy.  While the insurance company might point to policy language and suggest the question of coverage is indisputable, the question of coverage usually is far more complex. 

Even when the insurance company justifies a denial based on an exclusion, condition or other policy language, there will be extensive case law analyzing the provision.  Sometimes interpretation of a policy will be far different than what a layperson might assume based on a straightforward reading of the policy provisions.  This means that you should have an experienced commercial insurance attorney representing your interest if your insurer balks at tendering a defense of your claim or refuses to pay a judgment.

Although many times the insurance company will deny or approve a claim, your insurer also might send a reservation of rights letter.  When an insurer takes this position, the insurance carrier will agree to defend you against a lawsuit, but the insurer reserves the right to dispute its obligation to pay a verdict or settlement.  In some cases, the insurance company might eventually seek reimbursement for the cost of defense.  When an insured is faced with a defense under a reservation of right, the insured should seek independent legal advice on how best to proceed.

If you have questions about Miami business insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my Miami commercial insurance claims dispute law firm.  My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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