If you own a small business in the Massachusetts , this information will help you understand Massachusetts Commercial Liability insurance and protect your business and your personal assets from legal claims and settlements that can spell financial ruin. Whether you work in Boston, Cambridge, Worchester, Brockton, Springfield, Lowell, New Bedford, Quincy or anywhere else in the Bay State having sufficient commercial liability coverage is an important part of any small business plan in Massachusetts.
Fast Facts About Massachusetts Small Business
A small business is defined as any company with fewer than 500 employees. Small business is vital to Massachusetts’s economic well-being, accounting for nearly 98% of all state employers. Of Massachusetts’s 594,487 small businesses in 2008 (the latest data available), 138,846 were small employers, accounting for almost 48% of the state’s private-sector jobs. Another 455,641 were one-person operations with no employees. Source: SBA Massachusetts Small Business Profile 2011.
About Commercial Liability Insurance for MA Businesses
Commercial liability insurance (also called business liability insurance and commercial general liability insurance) protects your Massachusetts business from financial loss resulting from claims of injury or damage cause to others by you or your employees. A policy typically covers:
Bodily Injury – physical damage to a person other than an employee at your place of business and injuries caused by you or an employee at a client’s home or work place.
Personal Injury – libel, slander, copyright infringement, invasion of property or privacy, wrongful eviction, false arrest and similar acts that cause damage to a person’s reputation or rights.
Property Damage – damage done to another person’s property by you or an employee in the course of conducting your business.
Advertising Injury – losses caused by your advertising
Legal Defense and Judgments – costs to defend against real and frivolous suits and judgments up to the limit of your coverage. Note this generally does not include punitive damages for negligence or willful misconduct.
Massachusetts Minimum Business Insurance Requirements
Commercial Liability Insurance is not mandatory for businesses operating in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is a modified comparative negligence fault state. The plaintiff who is 51% or more at fault cannot recover damages. The statute of limitations for general personal injury and products liability is 3 year. Accidents and lawsuits (legitimate and frivolous) do happen in Massachusetts. If you own property or other valuable assets you would be wise to invest in sufficient commercial general liability coverage for your Massachusetts small businesses.
How Much Massachusetts Commercial Liability Insurance Should You Carry?
Each situation is unique, but as a general guideline, the type of Massachusetts business you operate or products you manufacture should determine how much Massachusetts commercial general liability insurance you need. A good rule of thumb for most small businesses is between $500,000 and $1 million. However, if yours is a high-risk business such as the building trades or has a high volume of interaction with the public such as a restaurant or retail business, you should consider increasing your coverage. Note that if you operate out of your home, your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance has limited coverage for business liability and loss.
How Are Premium Costs Assessed
Massachusetts commercial liability insurance premiums are based on a number of factors including the types of service or products you provide, the number of people you employ, how long you’ve been in business, and your claims history. Coverage is typically capped at a specific dollar amount for your policy period.
Other Insurance to Consider for Your Massachusetts Small Business
Massachusetts requires that anyone who employs one or more persons, whether full or part time, carry workers compensation insurance. Sole proprietors with no employees are not required to carry workers compensation. Members of LLCs, LLPs, partners, corporate offices and independent contractors are generally exempt. Other exemptions may apply. Contact the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development for details. www.mass.gov
Massachusetts requires that all drivers carry minimum automobile insurance. If you use your car or truck for business, it is recommended that you purchase a commercial vehicle policy.
This agency is responsible for regulating all insurance policies sold in the state, including commercial liability coverage. Visit their website at www.mass.gov. Call 617-521-7794 Write Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Division of Insurance, 1000 Washington St., Suite 810, Boston, MA 02118-6200.
Massachusetts Small Business Administration
The SBA is an independent agency of the federal government created to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns and maintains a District Office in Boston. Get the link to the Massachusetts SBA at www.sba.gov.
National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
This is an organization of insurance regulators from the 50 states, District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories. NAIC provides a forum for the development of uniform policies when appropriate. It also offers an online form for filing complaints, reporting suspected insurance fraud and downloading key financial information about insurance carriers at naic.org.
Insurance Information Institute (III)
This organization’s mission is to improve public understanding of insurance – what it is and how it works. Visit III at www.iii.org.