Compare the Top Rated General Liability Insurance Companies: 2019 Best & Most Popular Business Liability Insurance Providers
General liability insurance may be the most common type of professional insurance, since most commercial leases require business owners to have one of these policies. Unlike employment practice liability insurance, general liability protects your assets against third-party claims.
In our litigious society, your business needs this type of protection. If the case goes to trial, the average award for a civil suit against a business is around $80,000, with around 55 percent of plaintiffs winning their case. Those numbers do not include the tens of thousands of cases that are settled out of court.
What Is General Liability Insurance?
Also known as business liability insurance and commercial general liability insurance, these policies protect business owners against lawsuits brought by a third party, i.e. not an employee of the business. Coverage examples include:
- Bodily injuries
- Property damage
- Product liability
- Advertising injury
- Copyright infringement
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General liability policies do not cover lawsuits brought by employees, nor do they cover business property damage, professional mistakes, or data theft.
What Does General Liability Insurance Cover?
Many commercial insurance policies have similar sounding names, making it difficult to understand which policies cover which types of claims. General liability insurance covers you against a variety of third-party lawsuits. Coverage varies by insurer and policy, so check with your agent for exact details.
The following are typical damages covered by a general liability policy.
- Bodily injury: Includes a client, visitor, or other non-employee who injures him- or herself at your business. An example would be a customer tripping over an extension cord, spraining their ankle, and suing you for medical bills and lost wages.
- Property damage: Includes damage you or an employee causes to a customer's property and damage to a leased business space. For example, if a pool tech leaves the water running and floods a client's home, that client may sue you for damages. Or, an overloaded circuit causes an electrical fire and your landlord sues you for repairs.
- Product liability: If a product you manufacture injures a customer because of faulty design or lack of a warning label, you could be deemed liable for damages.
- Advertising injury: General liability insurance protects you against claims of slander or libel, such as when an employee insults a competitor on a public forum such as Facebook or Twitter.
- Copyright infringement: Covers a variety of potential issues, such as using a protected image in a marketing campaign.
General Liability Insurance Levels of Coverage
Just as with personal insurance products, general liability policies come in varying levels of coverage. Policies vary widely according to the type of business you operate and liabilities that are unique to that industry. You may also choose an excess liability policy, which protects you against claims that exceed your general liability limits.
Another consideration is whether the policy is claims-made or occurrence.
- Claims-made policies cover you against claims made during the life of your policy, even if the event occurred before your policy took effect. These do not cover you for claims that happen after the policy ends, even if the event occurred while you were covered.
- Occurrence policies cover you against claims made for events that occurred during the time you had the policy, even if the policy is no longer valid.
Top 10 General Liability Insurance Companies
The following are the 10 most popular, experienced general liability insurance companies:
- Allstate: America's largest publicly-held insurer is also a Fortune 500 company with a staff of 70,000-plus people. When you're looking at commercial insurance products, you want a company with that type of financial strength and stability.
- Chubb Limited: A Swiss company with headquarters in New Jersey, Chubb posted revenues over $19 billion in 2015. The company offers industry-specific general liability policies at a variety of coverage levels.
- GEICO: If you've seen their commercials (and who hasn't?) you may think GEICO is all about car insurance. In reality, the company offers a full line of insurance products, including general liability coverage.
- Hiscox: This insurer offers a wide array of commercial insurance policies, each tailored to the specific business and industry. The agency is particularly popular with small business owners.
- Liberty Mutual: Another entry on the Fortune 500, Liberty Mutual is the United States' fourth largest insurer. The company has been insuring individuals and businesses since its founding in 1912.
- Nationwide Mutual Insurance: Another insurance company whose commercials – and jingle – everyone knows. Nationwide offers a full line of business and personal insurance products. In addition, the company offers financial services such as retirement planning and annuities.
- Progressive: With its instantly-recognizable mascot Flo, you may think Progressive is relatively new to the insurance game. You'd also be forgiven for thinking all they offer is auto insurance. In reality, the company has been around for over 80 years and provides a full line of insurance policies.
- State Farm: Another full-service insurance provider, State Farm offers industry-specific business liability policies. The company also allows customers to personalize their coverage options to fit their unique needs.
- The Hartford: In addition to personal insurance policies, The Hartford offers a full line of commercial products, including business liability and workers' compensation. They also provide specialty coverage and group plans for employers.
- Travelers Insurance: One of the country's largest insurance companies is also one of its oldest. Travelers launched in 1853. Its headquarters are in Minnesota but the company also has offices in Canada, Great Britain, and Brazil.
What to Look for in a General Liability Insurance Company
We rarely recommend price being the sole criteria when choosing any product; this is especially true with insurance. Additional considerations include:
- Additional policies: Unfortunately, very few businesses can get by with a single policy. It's best if your insurance company can provide multiple products (and hopefully a discount). If you employ people, you should also have workers' compensation and employment practice liability insurance. There's also general liability, cyber insurance, professional liability insurance, and much more. Your specific needs depend on the type of business you run. Finally, you probably want to add an umbrella policy for claims that exceed your policy's coverage limits.
- Coverage: This is another area where your industry plays a role, since risk varies greatly according to business type. Can you add contractors to your policy as required? Does it cover incidents occurring offsite? Does the policy's coverage meet your state's minimum requirements? Is it enough to protect your assets? Do they cover legal costs? What happens if a case goes to trial?
- Experience: All of the brands we list have a long history underwriting insurance policies, so what this really comes down to is industry. Does the company have a background insuring businesses in your field?
- Processing claims: Most people are perfectly happy with their insurance company until they have to make a claim. When reviewing customer feedback, pay special attention to details about claims processing. Ask the insurer how they handle claims and what tools are available to you in the event you have to make one.
- Reputation: What do other customers say about the company, particularly those in your industry? Ask for referrals but also ask people in your network for recommendations.
Author: Angela Escobar