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, your policy is supposed to protect you from liability claims.  

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 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 usually 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 claims attorney represent your interest if your insurer balks at tendering a defense of your claim or refuses to pay a judgment.

Although the insurance company will eventually deny or approve your claim, your insurer might initially send you 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 rights, the insured should seek independent legal advice on how best to proceed.

You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at[email protected].

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