This is the second installment of our two-part blog post providing an overview of snow and ice-related issues and claims against commercial insurance policies. When a business removes snow, care is necessary to avoid potential liability for injury and property damage. A Target retail location was subjected to a lawsuit when a patron fell because of a mound of snow in the parking lot. The general rule in the majority of states is that a property owner is not financially responsible for injuries caused by a “natural accumulation.” This term refers to snow that has not been handled or manipulated and merely rests where it naturally falls to the ground. However, a commercial property owner can be liable for “unnatural” accumulations” where mounds or piles of snow are created by plowing. Further, property owners also might be subject to liability for failure to exercise due care when removing snow from steps leading into a building based on state law even if there was no duty to remove the snow in the first place.
There are two general categories of commercial coverage relevant to snow and ice damage – (1) Basic Form and (2) Broad Form. If your commercial policy is ISO CP 10 10, Causes of Loss—Basic Form, your policy covers expressly named perils. This is the more limited type of commercial policy. This policy will cover property damage caused by a name peril, such as hail or windstorm. If you are seeking compensation for damage to the interior of the facility caused by hail or wind under this type of policy, you typically need to establish damage to the exterior of the property by these perils.
If you have ISO CP 10 20—Broad Form Causes of Loss coverage, your policy coverage for hail or windstorm excludes loss from snow, sleet, ice, frost or cold weather. However, these forms of perils are covered if they penetrate the exterior of the building through an opening created by a windstorm or hail.
Collapse is not considered the cause of a loss rather it is the result of damage caused by another peril. If collapse is caused by two separate causes with only one falling within the policy coverage, the entire loss related to a collapse should be covered. The building also does not need to be completely devastated to constitute a collapse. If there is an imminent danger of collapse, this should be sufficient to trigger coverage.
These are just a few of the complex issues that you may face if the buildings used to operate your business are damaged by winter storms or the spring melt. Because coverage for these types of perils can be complex and impacted by subtle distinctions in policy language, you might want to consult with an insurance professional to ensure that you have appropriate coverage for the risks against which you are insuring.
Whether you are facing property damage or liability claims, the failure of your commercial insurance carrier to fulfill its promises can jeopardize the financial security of our company. My law firm represents policyholders in commercial claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations with an experienced Miami commercial insurance claims attorney. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.