A North Carolina court has ruled that Cincinnati Insurance Co. must pay 16 restaurants’ claims for business income (interruption) losses due to government-ordered COVID-19 shutdowns – a decision that runs counter to those of most judges who’ve ruled on similar cases.
As hundreds of COVID-19-related lawsuits regarding business interruption coverage make their way through U.S. courts, judge after judge has found in favor of insurer defendants. The central point has been that coverage depends – as specified in the insurance policies – on the policyholder suffering a “direct physical loss.”
“Business income (interruption) policies generally reimburse a business owner for lost profits and continuing fixed expenses when its facilities are closed due to direct physical damage from a covered loss, such as a fire, a riot, or a windstorm,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. “Insurers have been prevailing nationwide in nearly all of the litigated COVID-19 BI lawsuits because, as North Carolina’s Insurance Commissioner has noted, ‘Standard business interruption policies are not designed to provide coverage for viruses, diseases, or pandemic-related losses because of the magnitude of the potential losses.’ ”
“Policy language controls whether COVID-19 interruptions are covered,” said Michael Menapace, a professor of insurance law at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a Triple-I Non-Resident Scholar. “The threshold issue will be whether the insureds can prove their business losses are caused by ‘physical damage to property’.”
Cincinnati Insurance has said it plans to appeal the ruling.
By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I
Advanced Persistent Threat groups and cybercriminals are likely to continue to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic over the coming weeks and months. Weak and stolen passwords, back doors, applications vulnerabilities, malware and insider threats have been among the most common causes of data breaches in the past. But according to a recent Willis Towers Watson reportnew threats include:
Phishing, using the subject of coronavirus or COVID-19 as a lure;
Malware distribution, using coronavirus or COVID-19-themed lures;
Registration of new domain names containing wording related to coronavirus or COVID-19; and
Attacks against newly and often rapidly deployed remote access and teleworking infrastructure.
Security breaches have increased by 67% since 2014, yet businesses fail to take the proper precautions. Ransomware has become big business for “professional” criminals, crippling large and small businesses alike. But small businesses are especially attractive targets because they have information that cybercriminals want, and they typically lack the security infrastructure of larger businesses.
A remote workforce due to COVID-19 has made many organizations address issues of remote access and the need for multifactor authentication and virtual private networks (VPNs). But others – less cyber savvy— have left themselves exposed to cyberattacks.
In addition, vishing (via telephone) and smishing (via text message or WhatsApp) attacks have also increased in frequency, and in a work from home environment where colleagues and clients are increasingly connecting via mobile phones, vulnerability increases, according to a new AON Report. Short message attacks will generally seek to redirect a victim to a compromised website in order to harvest user credentials.
According to a recent survey by the Small Business Administration , 88% of small business owners felt their business was vulnerable to a cyber-attack – and that was before the pandemic. Yet many businesses can’t afford professional IT solutions, have limited time to devote to cybersecurity, or don’t know where to begin.
In observance of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Triple-I offers U.S. businesses these seven tips for improving their cybersecurity and averting data breaches:
Understand yourcyber risks. Businesses are vulnerable to cyberattacks through hacking, phishing, malware, and other methods.
Train Staff. Those engaged in cyberattacks find a point of entry into a business’ systems and network. A business’ exposure can be reduced by having and enforcing a computer password policy for its employees.
Keep Software Updated. Businesses should routinely check and upgrade the major software they use.
Create back-up files and store off-site. A business’ files should be backed up either as an external hard drive or on a separate cloud account. Taking these steps are vital to data recovery and the prevention of ransomware. Ransomware is when a cyberattack results in a situation where a business is asked to pay a fee to regain access to its own data.
Policyholder dividends have more than tripled so far this year, due largely to approximately $14 billion auto insurers have returned to policyholders in response to reduced driving and fewer accident claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) data from Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence, insurers issued $4.8 billion through the second quarter of 2020, almost $3.4 billion more than the same period a year ago. The bulk of that, $3.3 billion, is a result of pandemic-related driving patterns.
Insurers in the first half also booked $4.7 billion in credits through lower rates, and another $1.6 billion was booked as an underwriting expense, according to a Triple-I analysis of industry results.
In the second half of the year, Triple-I projects, insurers will return to customers another $338 million in dividends. Rate decreases of $4.1 billion will make up the remainder of the $14 billion in givebacks.
State Farm, the country’s largest auto insurer by premiums written, in April announced a $2 billion dividend to its auto insurance customers, averaging a 25 percent credit on these customers’ premiums through May 31. Combined with the premium credit and an 11 percent reduction in premium rates, the company said, these initiatives will save customers $4.2 billion through the end of 2020.
USAA, through a series of three dividend announcements, has returned $1.07 billion to auto policyholders and said it also is adjusting its rates.
On top of these, the industry has provided approximately $280 millionin charitable giving specifically related to the pandemic.
My five-year-old nephew, Ben, is a great source of pride to his electrician father, Dan. Last Halloween, Ben refused to trick-or-treat at a particular house because he noticed that the decorations there were a fire hazard.
Halloween is supposed to be fun, but it has always involved risks and potential liabilities. The video below outlines some of the “traditional” hazards and ways to mitigate them, from eliminating trip-and-fall dangers to preventing fire and pet-related perils.
And while much of the focus of Halloween-risk mitigation is on the home, Donald R. Grady, a Boston personal injury attorney, says the biggest dangers actually involve cars.
“You see an uptick in automobile accidents,” Grady says. “Especially with teenagers, who don’t have adults with them and who rush from house to house.”
The curse of 2020
Perhaps predictably by now, 2020 has brought the spooky holiday threats of its own. COVID-19 has introduced new Halloween concerns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a list of low-, moderate-, and high-risk Halloween activities for a time of pandemic.
Lower-risk activities include:
Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with.
Moderate-risk activities include:
Participating in one-way trick-or-treating, where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance
Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade with people distanced more than 6 feet apart
Attending a costume party held outdoors, where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart.
The CDC provides caveats and additional guidance for these and other moderate-risk activities, so if you’re even thinking about them, definitely read the relevant guidance. It advises against the following:
Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
“Trunk-or-treat,” where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
Dr. Steven N. Weisbart, CLU, Triple-I Senior Vice President and Chief Economist
COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted our economy – it has complicated the data we routinely use to understand economic developments. This is a bit like finding out the thermometer you use to tell if you have a fever is unreliable.
Here are two examples of why it’s hard to know what’s happening.
What is the correct unemployment rate?
The April 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment report said the U-3 rate – just one of six unemployment measures BLS reports – was 14.75 percent. This number is derived by dividing the number of people counted as unemployed (23.078 million) by the civilian labor force (156.481 million), which is everyone who is either working or unemployed and looking for work.
But when the virus was recognized as a major public health threat in mid-March and April and many businesses and organizations were shut down, throwing many millions out of work, some who were affected decided to retire. This means they were no longer counted as part of the civilian labor force. This is most vividly seen by comparing the civilian labor force in February (164.6 million) with its count in April (156.5 million)—a drop of 8.1 million.
The large number of retirees affected the unemployment rate: if they had not retired, most would likely have been counted as unemployed. To keep the math in our example simple, let’s say 7 million of the retirees had remained in the labor force and been counted as unemployed (maybe the other 1 million would have retired then anyway—virus or no virus). The unemployment count would have been 30 million (23 million counted plus 7 million un-retirees) and the civilian labor force would have been 163.5 million (156.5 counted plus 7 million un-retirees).
The unemployment rate would have been announced as 30 million divided by 163.5 million, or 18.35 percent, instead of 14.75 percent.
So, which one is correct?
Are seasonal adjustments still correct?
Macroeconomists have long recognized that many economic data have seasonal patterns. For example, retail sales often spike in the last quarter of the year because of the holidays. Sales for some items, such as those bought for “back to school,” spike at other times. So, to see what’s really happening, economic data are often adjusted to account for the seasonal effects and reported after these adjustments are made.
To see the effect of seasonal adjustments, look at the following two graphs. The first is employment in the construction industry that is not seasonally adjusted. The second is the same industry and time; the only difference is that its data are seasonally adjusted.
Construction employment obviously dips in the cold months, and the drop shown in the first graph doesn’t represent any significant economic change, so the seasonal adjustment in the lower graph lets us see only changes beyond the seasonal adjustment, such as what happened in 2020.
The problem, from an economic analysis viewpoint, is that the amount of seasonal adjusting to apply is a judgment call, and it is often based on a historical period in which conditions were much as they are now. But what’s happening now has no satisfactory historical precedent.
So should we keep using the seasonal adjustment factors from before, or do they not apply to the current economic situation?
These are just two examples of datasets or analytical approaches whose relevance can be called into question in light of COVID-19 – further complicating the already complex and nuanced endeavor of attempting to understand and anticipate economic developments.
Trevor Project: Trevor Chat/TrevorText volunteers are trained to answer chat messages or texts online from young people who are struggling with issues such as coming out, LGBTQ identity, depression, and suicide.
Read more about IICF volunteerism during COVID-19 here.
The IICF also provides volunteering opportunities throughout the year. It has hosted the Week of Giving since 1998, generating over 300,000 hours of volunteer service, and contributing $40 million in community grants since its founding in 1994.
Commercial insurance loss estimates related to the COVID-19 pandemic vary widely, with Lloyd’s estimating global claims as high as $107 billion in 2020 and analysts from investment bank Berenberg projecting total claims between $50 billion and $70 billion.
But a new Allianz paper says the unprecedented size of pandemic-related claims is only part of the story. The paper discusses the changes in loss patterns and causes spurred by the pandemic that “may be the prologue to more far-reaching and disruptive changes in years to come.”
The pandemic has reduced risk in some areas while heightening it in others. The paper points to “material reductions [in claims] in some lines of property and liability insurance, most notably in the aviation sector.”
Reliance on technology and the shift to homeworking for staff and remote monitoring of industrial facilities make companies more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Reduced air travel and increased emphasis on hygiene standards could benefit the risk profile of many industries, while changes in production line processes to facilitate social distancing could increase error rates.
According to Allianz, the cost of business interruption not related to COVID-19 fell in many cases as many manufacturers, their customers, and their suppliers either shut down or scaled back operations. On the other hand, COVID-19 containment measures have led to longer disruptions and more costly claims in some cases.
“For example, a fire at a chemical plant in South Korea forced the closure of the facility,” Allianz reports. “Restricted access due to the coronavirus lockdown prolonged the reinstatement period, increasing the overall cost of the standstill.”
The hibernation of some industries, such as aviation, doesn’t mean all loss exposures have equally disappeared, Allianz says. They’ve just changed, creating new risk accumulations: “For example, large parts of the worldwide fleet are grounded in airports, many of which might be exposed to hurricanes, tornados, or hailstorms. The risk of shunting or ground incidents, when large aircraft fleets are parked temporarily, also increases and can result in costly claims.”
Business resumption brings its own risks. Opening factories and restarting production lines are high-stress situations that can involve machinery breakdowns and fires.
Eye on supply chains
Allianz points to “the current rethinking and de-risking of global supply chains to achieve more operational resilience” as a trend to watch.
“Many companies are reviewing their supply chain strategies and evaluating options such as parallel supply chains with more redundancies or some reshoring from low-cost countries back to more developed markets,” Allianz says. “This will have an important impact for insurers, both in terms of generating demand for new protection solutions, as well as new claims scenarios.”
Potential also exists for claims to materialize from long-tail lines, such as directors and officers (D&O) or professional liability, as well as workers’ compensation, if any negligence or failures to adequately protect against the coronavirus outbreak have been perceived.
During the last week in September, Universal Health Services Inc., one of the largest hospital chains in the United States, began taking some ambulances out of service because of disruptions caused by a ransomware attack. Universal said no patients were harmed, but systems that support medical records, laboratories and pharmacies were taken offline at approximately 250 facilities.
This incident is part of a disturbing trend of healthcare institutions being targeted by ransomware attacks as the software used by hackers becomes more sophisticated and their attacks broader.
While cyber insurance claims impacted businesses of all types and sizes certain industries, including consumer businesses (retail, hospitality and food), healthcare and financial services were more frequent targets of cyberattacks in the first half of 2020, according to a recent report by Coalition, a provider of cyber insurance.
Overall, ransomware (41 percent), funds transfer loss (27 percent), and business email compromise incidents (19 percent) were the most frequent types of loss—accounting for 87 percent of reported incidents and 84 percent of claims paid in the first half of 2020.
“We’ve seen a sharp increase in ransom demands over the past quarter as threat actors have exploited COVID-19 and changes in company operating procedures. Although the frequency of ransomware claims has decreased by 18 percent from 2019 into the first half of 2020, we’ve observed a dramatic increase in the severity of these attacks,” said the Coalition report.
Since email is the single most targeted point of entry for a hacker, taking a few basic email security measures and implementing an anti-phishing solution would go a long way toward securing your business from criminals.
Coalition reports that, for each claim processed, cyber insurance played a critical role in helping the insured recover operationally. For example, a nonprofit organization providing child and family services grants to other nonprofits was duped into transferring $1.3 million to criminals. Coalition worked with law enforcement and the financial institutions involved to recover the stolen funds.
On September 29, the American Action Forum (AAF) hosted an event convening experts to discuss the urgency of government-backed financial relief for businesses whose incomes have suffered under the coronavirus pandemic conditions and what challenges lie ahead.
Entitled “Assessing Financial Support for Businesses During the Pandemic,” the discussion was centered on the following key topics:
The impact and success of the Paycheck Protection Program and the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending programs, particularly the Main Street Lending Program
Pandemic business interruption insurance and the potential for a federal pandemic program
Protecting businesses from shouldering excessive costs due to the new field of coronavirus litigation
Among the event participants was Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) CEO Sean Kevelighan. In a discussion with AAF’s Director of Financial Services Policy Thomas Wade, Kevelighan provided an overview of the business interruption (BI) insurance landscape in the context of the pandemic. Key highlights included:
Global pandemics are largely uninsurable. “Compared to other covered catastrophes—hurricanes, wildfires, vandalism from civil unrest—a pandemic is not limited to time or geography. What we’re seeing now with COVID-19 is impacting every community, every economy, and all at the same time. And with this, from an industry that relies on the law of large numbers, you simply can’t price risk in a way that would be efficient.”
Standard business interruption (BI) insurance necessitates direct physical damage. “Beyond the enormity of a pandemic catastrophe, a virus does not cause direct physical damage, which is nearly always needed to trigger a property insurance policy, particularly for businesses insurance and business interruption insurance policies.”
The lack of a federal system to provide the critical financial relief businesses has created an opportunity for trial attorneys to capitalize on business owners’ desperation. “Sensing [business owners’] desperation, trial attorneys have unfortunately dusted off their playbooks and seized on the opportunity. They’re selling a false sense of hope to consumers; they’re filling court houses with litigation that is attempting to retroactively rewrite contracts by manipulation of language and interpretations.”
As insurers work to meet promises for policyholders facing covered events such as wildfires, forcing insurers to retroactively cover pandemic-related losses is detrimental to the insurance industry—a backbone of the economy. “The insurance industry is concerned about these misguided and costly attempts—mainly by trial attorneys—to take capital away that we’ve set aside for claims that are actively being paid right now as we are in the midst of extreme seasons of hurricanes and wildfires. We’ve also seen incidents of rioting and civil unrest. To be clear, our own economic analysis at Triple-I shows that any attempt to retroactively pay business interruption claims would put systemic strain on the insurance industry. Notably, this industry was one of the financial services industries that weathered our previous recession well because of how safely we manage our capital. But in this case, it would only take a matter of months to bankrupt the industry.”
More about this discussion and the broader state-of-play for business relief is available from a companion report released by Thomas Wade. For more information on the ongoing business interruption debate, visit fairinsure.org
Many people are wondering if disability insurance will cover them if they come down with COVID-19. The answer, as is often the case, is a qualified yes.
There are basically three types of disability income insurance: Employer-paid disability insurance, Social Security disability benefits and individual disability income insurance policies.
Short-term disability insurance may cover coronavirus if your illness requires medical quarantine that leaves you unable to complete your work.
For disability coverage to apply “there has to be a medical reason you can’t work” according to Nicholas Mancuso, manager of the disability and advanced planning team at Policygenius. Social quarantines, such as when states mandate that people work from home, do not qualify you for disability benefits.
Some survivors of COVID-19 are reporting lingering symptoms, including fatigue, joint pain, and shortness of breath. These people may be eligible for long-term disability.
“It’s generally more difficult to qualify for long-term disability benefits with the coronavirus because of elimination periods for long-term policies,” said Mancuso.
The elimination period of a disability insurance policy is how long you must be unable to work — for medical reasons — before you can start receiving benefits. Long-term disability policies have elimination periods of at least 90 days.
Employer-paid disability insurance is required in most states, and so is the most common. Most employers provide some short-term sick leave. Many larger employers provide short-term and long-term disability coverage as well, typically with benefits of up to 60 percent of salary lasting from five years to age 65. In some cases, long-term disability insurance is extended for life. Disability benefits from employer paid policies are subject to income tax.
However, individual disability income insurance policies are the best way to ensure adequate income in the event of disability for most workers, even those with some employer-paid coverage. When you buy a private disability income policy, you can expect to replace from 50 percent to 70 percent of income. Insurers won’t replace all your income because they want you to have an incentive to return to work. However, when you pay the premiums yourself, disability benefits are not taxed.
But unfortunately not many people have individual disability income insurance. More than half of U.S. workers forego disability coverage, according to a recent study. And baby boomers, who are more likely to get injured or sick, are even more likely to forego the coverage (7 out of 10).
If you are 40 years old, you have about a 40 percent chance that between now and age 65 you’ll be disabled for 90 days or more for any reason. Injury accounts for 10-15 percent of the reasons why people have long-term disability. Illness is the other 85-90 percent. And if you are disabled for 90 days or more, there is about a 50 percent chance that you’ll continue to be disabled for up to two years, according to Triple-I’s chief economist Dr. Steven Weisbart.