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Does Requiring Customers to Wear Masks Have Any Effect on Legal Liability?

Posted By IIAW Staff, 16 hours ago
Updated: Monday, August 10, 2020

face masks

States are in various stages of reopening following months of COVID-19 lock downs. As the states progress through the phases, businesses are making key decisions regarding masks, should masks be required or optional? Some legislatures have taken the    responsibility for this decision away from business owners and are requiring masks be worn; but other states leave the decision to the business owners.

In states where the decision rests with the business, some operations have made the corporate decision to require masks be worn by all who enter the premises. From a legal liability perspective, is this necessary?

Legal Liability

Legal liability is liability imposed by the court or regulators on the person or entity legally responsible for injury or damage suffered by another party. Such legal obligations (or liability) can arise from intentional acts, unintentional acts, contracts (express or implied) or regulations. Legal liability generally focuses on civil wrongs but can include criminal wrongs. “Legal liability” exists when:

• The wrongdoer is found guilty of “Negligent Conduct” (breached the duty owed);

• The injured party suffers actual damages; and

• The wrongdoer’s “negligent conduct” is the proximate cause of the injury or damage.

A key requirement towards proving “negligent conduct” and ultimately legal liability is proving that the supposed tortfeasor (the wrongdoer) has or owed the injured party a specific duty of care and breached or failed to satisfy that duty. The degree of care owed to an injured party is based on the relationship between the wrongdoer and the injured party.

The greater the degree of care required or expected, the lower the threshold for breaching a duty owed (it is easier to breach a duty when greater care is required). Courts generally recognize four degrees of care or “levels” based on relationships are:

• Slight Negligence: A high degree of care is required;

• Ordinary Negligence: Requires “reasonable” care such  as would be provided by a reasonable and prudent  person;

• Gross Negligence: Very little care beyond slight care (not to be  confused with slight negligence) is required. This is represented by a deliberate or reckless disregard of a duty to exercise care which is  likely to cause foreseeable and significant harm; and

• Negligence per se: A breach of duty because the law says it is.  Negligence per se requires: 1) the at-fault party to violate the  law, 2) the law to pertain to public safety, 3) the violation of the  law be the cause of the injury, and 4) the injured person be a  part of the class of persons the law was designed to protect.

In a business/customer relationship, the business generally owes the customer a duty of reasonable care. While there are certain business relationships that increase the duty owed (such as that owed by an operation transporting passengers in a vehicle), reasonable care is the most common duty owed. For sake of this review, assume the business owes a duty of reasonable care.

Examples of duties owed by business establishments under the concept of reasonable care include repairing/correcting known hazards; warning against intrinsic/unrepairable hazards; and taking steps to avoid preventable hazards.

Consider the example of a restaurant that has several sets of steps in the path to the dining area, where a member of the wait staff has spilled some water and where the plate comes out of the oven very hot. Reasonable care in such a restaurant might include actions such as the person showing the customer to a table warns of the steps (“watch your step”), the wait person puts up a little yellow sign warning of the wet floor, and the person delivering the food says, “Be careful, the plate is hot.” These are examples of reasonable care.

Let’s return to the question of masks and legal liability associated with requiring or not requiring them. For this discussion, the injured party moves from a restaurant (it’s hard to eat while wearing a mask) to a retail location.

From the perspective of reasonable care, are masks necessary to avoid legal liability?  

(Note, this discussion does not and will not address the availability or applicability of liability insurance coverage. Only the concept of legal liability regarding customers in a typical retail setting is addressed in this article.)

Effectiveness of Masks

Before exploring the relative differences in legal liability between requiring masks and allowing customers the option, the purpose and effectiveness of masks must be considered. Discussions focused on the effectiveness of masks may be more complicated than the  concept of legal liability because of the emotions and the lack of clear

information surrounding the wearing of masks.

Purpose: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both state there are essentially two “grades” or levels of masks: 1) those that filter out the virus designed to protect the wearer from contracting the virus and prevent the wearer from spreading the virus; and 2) those intended to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus, but that do not necessarily prevent the wearer from contracting the virus. The masks most often worn by the public are the second type – masks intended only to prevent the spread and not the contracting of the virus.

Effectiveness: Unfortunately, the question of effectiveness seems to be unanswerable. Some claim the masks are very effective (giving percentages of protection without credible source substantiation) and some say they are little more than a “feel good” measure using drywall dust and even smoke to prove the point. Even the CDC and WHO are inconsistent in their messages. In regard to legal liability, effectiveness is largely irrelevant.

Masks Optional

Business operations choosing to allow the customers to make the mask-wearing decision may subject themselves to accusations by a customer that he or she contracted the virus from an unmasked  person or persons in the store. The injured person may assert that close contact with an unmasked person or persons led to their  sickness.

Such charges may be impossible to prove. A virus is a humankind exposure and is not limited to a location where people are not wearing masks. If the claimant visited the grocery store, bank,  pharmacy, office and/or other places during any particular day, proving the only place where they were exposed to the virus was the grocery store would be of utmost difficulty. Add to this the reality that other members of the family may have been several places, contracted the virus, and brought it home to everyone else in the house. Lastly, the masks worn in public are not designed to keep the virus from getting in, they are designed to limit the expulsion of the virus from the nose and mouth.

Frankly, lacking a law to the contrary, the business owner does not owe the customer a duty beyond reasonable care. Reasonable care is limited to the premises and what the business can actually control; viruses exist in more places than just the business premises and a business cannot be expected to protect a customer from exposure in all aspects of a customer’s life. Narrowing the person’s exposure down to one business on one particular day is truly picking gnats out of pepper.

Additionally, the legal concept of assumption of risk may be an affirmative defense to the mask-optional discussion. Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine under which an individual is barred from   recovering damages for an injury sustained when he or she voluntarily exposed him or herself to a known danger. Put another way,   assumption of risk prohibits the injured party from seeking damages on the basis that the plaintiff (injured person) knew of a hazardous or potentially hazardous condition and willingly exposed him or herself to it.

Assumption of risk defenses require the defendant to show:

• The injured party had actual knowledge of the risk involved  (conspicuously post signs warning “Enter at your own risk, masks are  optional”); and

• The plaintiff voluntarily accepted the risk (they entered the store).

When a customer visits a business where masks are optional, they make a conscious decision to enter the premises or not. If the injured party assumed the risk by entering the premises, the law generally  recognizes the defendant no longer owes a duty to protect the plaintiff against that risk.

Given the relatively unclear requirements of reasonable care, the difficulty in proving the virus was contracted at a particular place on a particular day, the doctrine of assumption of risk, and the limited purposes of the masks, business owners are unlikely to be held legally liable solely because masks were not required of all customers.

Requiring masks may exceed the requirement of reasonable care. In fact, certain disabilities and ADA laws may make it impossible for all customers to wear a mask. If courts made mask wearing the  minimum standard of reasonable care, removing the freedom of personal choice generally granted to the business owner and the customer/citizen, in a sense, the court would “legislate” masks by making mask wearing the minimum standard of care while ignoring the protection of assumption of risk. Some states have already undertaken legislative efforts to protect business owners.      

Masks Required

Previous paragraphs addressed the types and relative effectiveness of masks. Does requiring all customers to wear a mask decrease the business owner’s potential for being held legally liable?

Health officials recommend (where not a requirement) masks be worn that prevent the spread of droplets and mists from the nose and mouth that may contain the virus. Again, these masks aren’t  necessarily designed to prevent the wearer from contracting the virus, but when every customer wears masks, the theory is everyone has a reduced (though not completely eliminated) chance of contracting the virus.

On the surface, requiring everyone to wear a mask appears to lower the chances that the business will be accused of contributing to or causing a person to contract the virus. Requiring a mask seems to be a physical manifestation of an exculpatory statement such as, “Not Responsible for Broken Windshields” or “Enter at Your Own Risk, Not Responsible for Injury.” The statement doesn’t make it so.

Individuals may be less likely to sue but requiring masks may not lower or heighten an operation’s legal liability for injury to a  customer – if it can be proven the virus was contracted at the location. What other steps were taken to protect the customer?

Legal liability is a function of duty and facts. Requiring masks of all customers may be above and beyond the duty of reasonable care owed to customers.

To Mask or Not Mask

Requiring masks or allowing customers to make a personal choice apparently has no effect on the business owners’ ultimate legal liability. What is the duty owed (reasonable care)? Did the owner meet the duty owed? If both questions are answered “yes,” the business is not legally liable for any injury suffered.

Can the infected person prove the virus was contracted at the business? Given the facts of a virus and particularly this virus (with its long incubation period), proving it was contracted in any one place on any given day is nearly impossible.

Holding a business legally liable without other clear and convincing evidence simply because customers were not required to wear masks forces the court to set a standard of care almost impossible to  maintain in the future. Every flu season or the event of another community sickness will subject business owners to a higher degree of care than ever required in history or should be considered   reasonable.

A virus is a natural organism that man can avoid only so long. Holding a business owner legally liable is unreasonable given the facts of care and the reality of a virus.

Requiring masks may dissuade some from naming the business in the suit; but not requiring masks likely does not increase the overall chances of being held legally liable.

Tags:  insuring Wisconsin  Virtual University  wisconsin independent insurance association  wisconsin insurance agency help  wisconsin insurance blog 

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Errors & Omissions: From the Email Bag - If You're A Babysitter, Let's Hope You Don't Get Paid Like One

Posted By Kaylyn Zielinski, Thursday, August 13, 2020
Updated: Monday, August 10, 2020


I recently received a question from a Swiss Re Corporate Solutions/Westport Insurance Corporation policy holder: “Are there any real-world claim examples of agents being held liable when they establish a habit of contacting clients when a Notice of Cancellation (NOC) is issued on a direct bill policy; but then they forget and the policy gets cancelled, and the client has a claim, aka babysitting.

Such claims have been happening for at least the 27 years I have been with the firm although we have advised agencies not do so. I can safely say that this subject comes up at virtually every E&O risk management course I have ever taught or attended, and I regularly saw this type of claim when I was in the claims department. Just to be current, I contacted our claims department team leaders and within 5 minutes Jim Redeker found two recent examples where we paid substantial losses. Both were carrier direct bill policies.

Jim’s initial response was this:

“Every time a policy cancels for nonpayment of premium and there is a loss, the argument is made that the agent should have done something. In most cases we simply state that the customer received the same notices that our insured received, and our insured has no duty to notify its customer of an impending policy cancellation. We have trouble when the agent failed to notify the customer that the policy was about to be cancelled for nonpayment of premium after the agent has made a practice of providing such notifications in the past. At that point the agency customer has an argument that they relied on our insured to notify them when their premium was due.”

In most cases the agent never had a legal duty to contact the customer, but because they had created an 

expectation that they would do so, the duty was now in place. And because of that, if they failed to do so they had breached their duty to the customer. If a loss occurred the agent could be held liable.

Example 1: “The customer alleged that on May 25 the agency mailed notice of policy expiration to the wrong address and unbeknownst to the customer the policy was cancelled. The customer alleged that no one at the agency contacted them to advise the policy would be cancelled.

The Agency would mail cancellation notices to customer who would then pay. They would wait for the notice from the agency disregarding the notice mailed to them by the carrier. In this case, the agency mailed the cancellation notice to the wrong address, so the customer never paid the bill. There was then a claim made by the customer on the cancelled policy that was denied by the carrier. $101,242 loss paid by Swiss Re Corporate Solutions/Westport on behalf of the insured.”

Example 2: “Mr. (Customer) is claiming that the agency developed a practice and procedure of personally

collecting premium payments from Mr. (Customer) but failed to do so in this instance. The agency had a change in staff and was not aware of the previous practice, so the payment was not collected from the customer. The policy cancelled and there was a loss. The carrier denied coverage as the policy had rightfully been cancelled due to non-payment of premium. We paid a total of $204,837 on a death claim for a cancelled auto policy.”

These are just two of many examples where an agency developed a duty that they would not otherwise have 

resulting in substantial claim against the agency. The lesson for you as young agents (and not so young gents as well,) is simple: on direct bill policies where a Notice of Cancellation has been sent to the customer, DO NOT babysit your customers to make sure they pay the bill on time. HOWEVER, you should contact them immediately after the date of cancellation to see if they want you to try to obtain a new policy.

As a member of the IIABA, you have access to the “Virtual University” and if you are also a Swiss Re

Corporate Solutions policy holder, you also have access to the “E&O Happens” website. 

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Big I Buzz - August 12, 2020

Posted By IIAW Staff, Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Big I Buzz Logo

In this week's Big I Buzz, we are discussing how COVID-19 may affect 'work-life balance', best states for insurance agents and how viewpoints on autonomous technologies have changed. 

How the Pandemic May Change 'Work-Life Balance' Forever

COVID-19 is changing the way we get our work done, but it also is changing the way work-life balance will look. Insurance Journal suggests that employers encourage their staff to take time off, prioritize employees mental health and encourage continuing to offer a flexible work environment to those who may need it as businesses progress through COVID-19. Read more about balancing work and personal life here.

Best States for an Insurance Agent

Zippia has ranked the best states for insurance agent jobs ranking Maine, Rhode Island, Nevada, New Hampshire and Vermont in the top five respectively. Wisconsin isn't far behind ranking at number 21. See the full ranking here

Americans Becoming More Leery of Autonomous Technologies

A new American Automobile Association (AAA) report is showing that consumer trust in driverless transportation has declined throughout the last few years. According to Insurance Journal, "Three-quarters (73 percent) of American drivers report that they would be too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, up from 63 percent in late 2017." The report also shows that, "two-thirds (63 percent) of U.S. adults report they would actually feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle while walking or riding a bicycle. See more about the full report here

For more news, check out the Action News section of our weekly e-newsletter, Big I Buzz. If you aren't subscribed, click here to add your email to our mailing list. We hope that everyone has a great rest of their week!

Tags:  Big I Buzz  insuring Wisconsin  wisconsin independent insurance association  wisconsin insurance agency help  wisconsin insurance blog 

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Commentary from Counsel - SCOTUS Expands Exception to Employment Claims Against Religious Institutions

Posted By IIAW Staff, Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Updated: Monday, August 10, 2020

In the final days of its 2019-20 term, the Supreme Court issued a decision with potentially vast implications for religious organizations.  In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru, the Court ruled that parochial school teachers do not, for the most part, enjoy protections under federal employment laws.  This decision, and the potential for the Court to expand on it in the years to come, could have a major impact on insured claims against religious institution employers.


The Our Lady of Guadalupe School Case and Decision


The Our Lady case is actually a combination of two employment discrimination cases brought by Catholic school teachers in the Los Angeles area.  In both cases, the teachers argued the schools terminated them for discriminatory reasons.  The first plaintiff, Agnes Morrisey-Berru, claimed her former employer fired her based on her age.  The second plaintiff, Kristen Biel, argued her former school terminated her because she had breast cancer.


Before delving into the Court’s opinion in Our Lady, however, it is necessary to discuss a bit of background.  In 2012, the Supreme Court considered a similar case in which a terminated parochial school teacher sued her former employer for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In that case, the Court recognized a “ministerial exception” to federal employment laws rooted in the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.   Specifically, the Court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit, holding that the ministerial exception precluded her claim given that she had received extensive religious training, was considered a minister of her church, and her firing fell into a category of decisions religious institutions make that are essential to their central mission.


Despite important differences between the two cases, the Court reached the same decision in Our Lady as it did in 2012.  In the 2012 case, the Court ruled the ministerial exception barred the teacher’s ADA claims based on evidence that the fired teacher had extensive religious training and was considered by her church to be a “minister.”  The same could not be said for the Our Lady plaintiffs, as the two teacher plaintiffs in the case did not have any specific religious education credentials, and one of them testified that she was not even a practicing Catholic.  However, according to the Court’s majority opinion, whether a teacher has religious training is

inconsequential to the ministerial exception analysis.  What mattered in Our Lady was that the teachers taught religious curriculum, prayed with their students, and accompanied them to mass.  Ultimately, in dismissing the teachers’ claims, the Court held that the schools had initially made the determination that the teachers knew enough about Catholicism to teach the subject, and “judges have no

warrant to second-guess that judgment.”


Now What?


Despite the fact that both the Our Lady decision and the 2012 case involved teachers, the rulings could have much broader implications.  In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor criticized the majority, arguing it had destroyed the existing standard of review for the ministerial exception and replaced it with a single consideration: “whether a church thinks its employees play an important religious role.”  Not only could this “strip[] thousands of schoolteachers of their legal protection,” according to Sotomayor, it could also extend to “countless coaches, camp counselors, nurses, social-service workers, in-house lawyers, media-relations personnel, and many others who work for religious institutions.”


If you or your agency have religious institution clients, this decision, and its progeny, could have a considerable impact on the scope of potential employment-related claims and litigation.  If lower courts consistently (or even more 

broadly) apply the holding from Our Lady, it could greatly reduce the amount (or at least the success) of employment discrimination claims against religious institutions. Moreover, if Justice Sotomayor’s dissent proves prescient, the opinion could serve as the backbone for future decisions dismissing discrimination claims brought by any employee of a religious organization, or even claims brought by parishioners involved in community outreach or charity work.




In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru, the Supreme Court expanded the ministerial exception to employment discrimination claims brought against religious institutions.  While the case involved teachers at parochial schools, the decision may impact claims brought by any employees of religious organizations.  Keep an eye on this column and updates from the IIAW for related developments.

Tags:  commentary from counsel  insuring Wisconsin  wisconsin independent insurance association  wisconsin insurance agency help  wisconsin insurance blog 

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Risky Business - Determining the Value of a Property

Posted By IIAW Staff, Monday, August 10, 2020
Updated: Monday, July 20, 2020


This article was recently published in the August issue of Wisconsin Independent Agent magazine. Read more from Wisconsin Independent Agent here

Recently, we have seen an E&O claim trend around insurance limits based on values. The customer’s property has not been properly evaluated, but who should be responsible for determining the value? The advice from Swiss Re Corporate Solutions has long been that the customer is responsible for determining the value of the property. The agent should then take the value provided by the customer and provided insurance based on that amount. Many times, the agent takes on the role of the advisor and a customer will look to the agent to assist with the valuation. In this situation, the agent is likely creating a “special relationship” and has greatly increased their standard of care. If agents are using valuation tools, they must realize the answers they provide are only as good as the information that is entered into them. The agent also then assumes the responsibility of making sure the values are regularly updated to reflect any changes to the property.

Here is an example of what can go wrong and what an agency can do to avoid a $2 million E&O claim.

Andrew, an experienced agent at a large insurance agency, placed Commercial Property coverage for his client who was a real estate developer.  Among the properties he owned, the real estate developer owned a shopping center. The agent and his client had verbal discussions when the policy was initially placed regarding the value of the property.  According to the agent, the value of the building was ultimately determined by the real estate developer, but nothing was put in writing by the agent to reflect how the value was determined or whether the client agreed with the valuation. The agent procured a replacement cost property policy with $2.5 million in replacement cost for the building.

The policy was then renewed each year for 5 years. During this time period, neither the agent nor the client re-visited the issue of the valuation of the property or considered or discussed possible increases in the value of the property.

 The shopping center then burned to the ground. When the client submitted the claim, the carrier paid the limit of the policy. However, the property owner claimed that the replacement cost of the property was actually $7MM and claimed that the property was undervalued. The real estate developer admitted receiving the renewals each year but not reading them. He further claimed that he completely relied on his agent to determine the appropriate insurance coverages, that it was the agent that set the initial value of the property and that the agent never recommended an appraisal at any point. The real estate developer proceeded to file suit against Andrew and his agency.

 What are the major issues in this case?

·       Agent’s failure to document property valuation process in writing

·       Agent’s undertaking to set the value of the property when that is potentially outside his/her area of expertise and the agent may not have a duty to undertake this task.  In addition, the property owner is in a superior position to know the value of his/her own property

·       An insurance broker is not required to ascertain the levels of coverage for a risk.  However, if the agent assumed this obligation even though he didn’t have to, he thereby created a special relationship that obligated him/her to exercise a greater degree of care and diligence.

·       Agent’s failure to consider and discuss increases in value of the property over time i.e. by not performing a yearly analysis of coverages and making necessary modifications to the level of coverage.

What could have been done differently by the agency?

·       Yearly review of property values with sign off by client

·       Written documentation of valuation with client sign-off

·       Written recommendation that the client have the property appraised

What do you think was the outcome?

The case was tried and the agent paid almost $2MM in damages for taking on the responsibility of valuing the property and not doing it properly as well as failing to review the value

If your agency needs to review internal processes such as property valuations, please call IIAW Vice President Mallory Cornell. There could even be E&O premium savings for your proactive E&O Risk Management!

Tags:  insuring Wisconsin  risky business  wisconsin independent agent  wisconsin independent insurance association  wisconsin insurance agency help  wisconsin insurance blog 

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Big I Buzz - August 5, 2020

Posted By IIAW Staff, Wednesday, August 5, 2020

In this week's Big I Buzz we are covering Allstate's push into the independent space, pro sports players associations stance on the Senate Republican stimulus proposal and we look into the states ranked by uninsured rates. 

Allstate's $4 billion push into the independent space

Allstate has announced that it will acquire National General Holdings for $4 billion in their attempt to step into the independent agent channel. According to Insurance Business America, "There is talk that Allstate is in the middle of a major restructuring that would see thousands of staff being laid off. News of a major acquisition deal despite Allstate's alleged internal issues raises more questions than answers, and some may wonder why the insurer went through with this deal."

Pro sports players associations come out against key McConnell stimulus priority

The executive directors of the NFL, NBA, NHL Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer players associations signed onto a letter raising concerns about the liability protections included in the Senate Republican proposal introduced last week. Read more about the proposals from both the Republican and Democratic parties here. The players associations were opposing the structure of the proposal because the legislation does not explicitly provide liability protections for those who engage in willful misconduct or grossly negligent behavior, providing a tighter scope on the bill's safe harbor than the players association asserts, according to CNN

States ranked by uninsured rates

Becker's Hospital Review has ranked the states by their uninsured rates. This report compared uninsured rates in 2018 to rates in May 2020 with information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Urban Institute. Texas ranked at the top with the highest uninsured rate in the U.S - with 29 percent of adults uninsured as of May, according to a report from Families USA. The total number of uninsured in the U.S. climbed to 21 percent due in part to layoffs tied to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months, according to Becker's Hospital Review. Wisconsin's uninsured rate sits at 10 percent at the time of this report. 

For more news, check out the Action News section of our weekly e-newsletter, Big I Buzz. If you aren't subscribed, click here to add your email to our mailing list. We hope that everyone has a great rest of their week!

Tags:  big i buzz  insurance industry news  insurance industry updates  insurance news  insuring Wisconsin  wisconsin independent insurance association  wisconsin insurance agency help  wisconsin insurance blog 

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Connect, Collaborate, Engage

Posted By IIAW Staff, Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Updated: Monday, July 20, 2020

puzzle pieces


This article was originally published in the August issue of the Wisconsin Independent Agent magazine. Read more from Wisconsin Independent Agent here

Henry Ford famously said, “Coming Together is a beginning, Staying together is progress, and Working together is success.” You have likely seen this quote a lot from the IIAW as it perfectly illustrates the type of community the IIAW is working to build among its members and stakeholders. An ecosystem of insurance professionals and solutions to help drive the industry to new heights.

Historically, the IIAW has brought together its members in the form of meetings, events, and conventions/conferences. In the COVID-19 environment that exists now, in-person gatherings can be difficult and risky, but the need to connect, collaborate and engage with other individuals has never been greater.  That is why, later this Fall, the IIAW will be launching a new online “curated” community and app where members can seek out and engage with other members/stakeholders within the association or with association staff/experts. Post questions, topics, and articles for feedback from other agency staff, insurance company employees, vendors, or staff. Search past posts or blogs to obtain valuable information quickly and easily. This platform seeks to bring insurance professionals together in a virtual curated format to provide a more cohesive, comprehensive, and responsive community environment to meet the evolving needs of our Association’s members, sponsors and stakeholders.  

Data shows an overwhelming percentage of members only sign-in to renew their dues and register for an event. The Online Community integrates with IIAW’s association management system and website to provide simple and quick access to community features such as blogs, forums, groups, member directories and more. Accessibility and personal interaction preferences are key to the platform. Instead of members interacting and engaging with content and other members in a more traditional format, the IIAW online Community will tailor its approach to the member by bringing together relevant data and information into an easily consumable and familiar source through the “My Feed” function.

Alerts are also an essential piece of the community online platform and SocialLink Mobile App. These Alerts keep the member engaged with instant updates on activity that is happening within their Community Feed and Connections. Alerts can range from updates to a particular post you have made or contributed to as well as Connection requests from other community members. The online community and app will have push notifications/alerts that populate member’s “My Feed” from the backend of the website allowing for the distribution of quick and relevant information.

Gamification is adding game principals or mechanics into nongame environments, like a website, online community, or learning management system to increase participation. The goal of gamification is to encourage the engagement with consumers, employees, and partners to inspire collaborate, share and interact. The IIAW will be incentivizing participation by integrating gamification into its platform. We will be rewarding users/members for their participation in the form of points that can be redeemed  for Amazon gift cards, local merchant gift cards, IIAW swag and more. It’s easy, participate to earn points, cash in those points for cool prizes.

In order for our new virtual community to succeed we need everyone to participate. We sincerely hope that you and your company will join us this Fall as we look to inspire, educate, collaborate, engage and connect with insurance professionals across Wisconsin to help drive the industry toward continued prosperity.

“Alone, we can do so little, together we can do so much!”  - Helen Keller

Tags:  insurance bartender  insuring Wisconsin  online community  wisconsin independent insurance association  wisconsin insurance agency help  wisconsin insurance blog 

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Transitioning to a Remote Workforce? Here's What You Need to Know

Posted By IIAW Staff, Tuesday, August 4, 2020


2020 has become the year of the remote worker, courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic. Is your business one of the many that has transitioned to remote operations? Have you considered how that change affects your insurance liabilities as a business owner?

Your Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agent® can help you reassess your risk picture. Managing a remote workforce may be new to you, but independent agents have rich expertise in helping business owners manage risk — whether employees work from home or on-site. And because they represent multiple insurance companies, Trusted Choice agents can offer you and your business customized coverage based on your unique and changing needs.

In addition, your Trusted Choice agent can offer you resources and advice for developing your company’s remote work program. It should address, at a minimum:

1. Safety guidelines for a home office setup.

2. Designated work, break, and lunch times.

3. Safety training.

4. Physical inspections of remote workers’ home offices.

5. The workers’ compensation rules for your state as they apply to remote workers.

Here are a few insurance questions your Trusted Choice agent can help you answer:

Does my commercial general liability policy cover remote employees?

As part of your business insurance package, general liability protects your business against financial loss resulting from bodily injury, advertising injury, and property damage caused by your business or employees. Your Trusted Choice agent can review your policy to be sure that you are still adequately covered while employing remote workers.

If your remote employee must meet business clients from home, it will be your commercial general liability policy that must cover any injury, not the employee’s homeowners insurance. Your agent may suggest additional coverages such as management liability insurance to protect you and your workers from this and other risks not covered by your commercial general liability policy.

Business property insurance protects the physical location of your business and any tools, equipment and inventory. Your business property policy may exclude or limit the coverage for property that is not located at your business premises. Your agent can help you determine if you need additional coverage for property used off-premises by remote workers.

An employee’s own homeowners policy usually will not cover the loss of business-owned equipment that is damaged or stolen in their home.

Are my remote workers covered by the workers’ compensation insurance my company purchases?

  It is incumbent on you as an employer to ensure a safe working environment for your employees — whether they work at your business location or from their homes. In general, your workers’ compensation insurance covers all of your workers for illness or injury arising out of or in the course of employment — no matter where they physically work.

However, ensuring a safe working environment for remote workers increases your responsibilities as an employer.

In addition, it is more difficult for a remote worker to demonstrate that an injury or illness “arises out of” or occurs “in the course of” employment — your telecommuting policies and procedures will be of critical importance. Will my cyber liability insurance cover remote employees? The answer to that question is not simple because cyber policies vary greatly and may contain exclusions that would affect remote workers. And a remote worker using a public or a poorly secured home network could put your entire business at risk and expose your customers’ private information. Your Trusted Choice agent can help you be sure you have appropriate cyber liability coverage. In addition, you must ensure that every device an employee uses is protected from cyber breaches. First, require that employees use only your business-owned devices for work; second, set every employee up with a secure connection from their home office to your business network. You may have to engage the help of an IT specialist, but the investment pales beside the potential costs of a cyberattack.

Let Trusted Choice help you keep your business and employees safe … anywhere they work.

For more help with your telecommuters, consult these articles:

Inspiring Productivity and Connection with Remote Workers

Ways to Keep Remote Workers Connected and Engaged 

Tags:  COVID-19  IIAW  remote work  wisconsin independent agent  wisconsin independent insurance association  wisconsin insurance agency help 

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Big I Buzz - July 29, 2020

Posted By Evan Leitch, Wednesday, July 29, 2020

In this week's Big I Buzz, we have news about the success of the WEDC "We're All In" small business grants that the IIAW assisted eligible members with obtaining, IIABA's new Agency Cyber Guide 3.0 from ACT and a new report shows that the average age of cars Americans drive is about 12 years.

WEDC "We're All In" Small Business Grant

The WEDC Reviewed more than 30,500 applications for the 'We're All In' grants for small  businesses. The IIAW assisted hundreds of Wisconsin insurance agencies in obtaining this grant. 

 ACT Releases Agency Cyber Guide 3.0

Handling sensitive information is now one of the most critical responsibilities faced by the modern insurance agency. Independent insurance agents and brokers must properly collect and protect sensitive client information every day. This means complying with state and federal regulations as well as adhering to customer service best practice standards, and compliance with Data Privacy Laws as mandated in all Agency/Company contracts. 

 Average Age of Cars Americans Are Driving Nears 12 Years: IHS Markit

Americans are hanging on to their cars and trucks longer, pushing the average age of vehicles on the road to the highest level in nearly 20 years even before the coronavirus hit, according to new data from IHS Markit Ltd. That is not good for emissions or safety, but t could give a lift to companies that manufacture and sell repair parts.  

For more news, check out the Action News section of our weekly e-newsletter Big I Buzz. If you aren't subscribed, click here to add your email to our emailing list. We hope that everyone has a great rest of their week! 


Read the July 29 edition of the Big I Buzz Here

Tags:  Big I Buzz  IIAW news  insurance industry news  Insurance news  insuring wisconsin  weekly wisconsin insurance agent newsletter  wisconsin insurance news 

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Virtual University - "Dagger" or Plus Symbol Classes: What They Mean

Posted By IIAW Staff, Friday, July 24, 2020
Updated: Thursday, July 9, 2020



By: Chris Boggs | Big "I" Virtual University Executive Director


This article was originally published in our February 2020 Wisconsin Independent Agent magazine. Click here to read our magazine, Wisconsin Independent Agent. 


Nearly 40 percent of Insurance Services Office’s (ISO’s) general liability class codes are, what some call, “dagger” codes. Currently, 474 of ISO’s general liability class codes are “dagger” classes; however, ISO regularly reviews these codes for continued inclusion.


A “dagger class” or “plus sign class” indicates that Products and/or Completed Operations coverage is included as part of and not separate from the Premises/Operations coverage. For lack of a better way to explain it, when an operation is classed as a “dagger” or “plus sign” class, bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD) claims resulting from the insured’s legal liability are not segregated based on when or where they occur. All BI and PD claims are, in a sense, equal.


Additionally, there is no separate products/completed operations aggregate limit when an operation falls within a “dagger” classification. All liability losses are subject to the general aggregate limit. 


Lastly, products or completed operations coverage is provided at no additional premium when the operation is a “dagger” class. In “standard” or “non-dagger” class codes, a separate loss cost (rate) applies to both premises/operations and products/completed operations coverage; but “dagger” class codes have only one loss cost (rate) which is based almost exclusively on the premises/operations exposure. If there is a perceived products and/or completed operations exposure, the “rate” is included in the premises/operations “rate.”


Why Dagger Classes Exist


Understanding the “what” or effect of a “dagger” class is simpler when the “why” is known. The “why” is quite simple – actuaries and loss exposures. 


Statistically, operations assigned a “dagger” class have a negligible or even nonexistent products/completed operations loss exposure. Following are a few of the “dagger” classes that demonstrate the lack of a products/completed operations exposure:


• Airports

• Apartment buildings

• Archery ranges

• Beaches

• Churches

• Day care centers

• Fairs

• Fishing piers

• Golf courses

• Insurance agents

• Schools

• Warehouse


Consider each of these examples. While a products/completed operations loss may be possible, imagining one is very difficult. A products and/or completed operations loss is statistically improbable. Nearly every imaginable loss involves the premises or the on-going operations. 


Because a products/completed operations loss is statistically unlikely, there is no separate loss cost (rate) and no separate definition for a loss that might be considered a products/completed operations loss. In short, there is little relevant products/completed operations exposure. When there is such a negligible exposure, there is no need to define or provide a “rate” for the “exposure.” 


Contradictory Confusion


“Dagger” classes create confusion because of the seeming contradiction between policy wording and coverage rules. 


On first reading, the unendorsed commercial general liability (CGL) policy appears to specifically exclude products and/or completed operations losses for “dagger” classes. “V.16.b.(3)” reads:


16. “Products-completed operations hazard”:


b. Does not include “bodily injury” or “property damage” arising out of:


(3) Products or operations for which the classification, listed in the Declarations or in a policy Schedule, states that products-completed operations are subject to the General Aggregate Limit.


However, Rule 25.F.1. reads:


F. Symbols


1. Plus Sign


A plus sign when shown in the Premium Base column under General Liability insurance in the Classification Table – means that coverage for Products and/or Completed Operations is included in the Premises/Operations coverage at no additional premium charge. When this situation applies, the classification described in the policy schedule or Declarations must state that:


“Products-completed operations are subject to the General Aggregate Limit” to provide Products and/or Completed Operations coverage(s).


While the policy seems to exclude products/completed operations coverage in “dagger” classed operations, the rule states that coverage for products and/or completed operations is included in the premises/operations coverage. What could be more contradictory than this? Further, since neither the insured nor the claims adjuster get a copy of the rule, it seems the most likely scenario is the denial of any loss that may be considered a product or completed operations loss. 


However, a clear reading and interpretation of the policy language supports the rule rather than contradicts it. The supposed “exclusionary” wording serves only to remove any product or operation loss subject to a “dagger” class code from the definition of “Products-Completed Operations Hazard.” Removing the ability to classify any loss as a products/completed operations loss allows all losses to be classified as either “bodily injury” (BI) or “property damage” (PD) - regardless when or where the loss occurs.


According to the CGL’s Insuring Agreement, the CGL responds when the insured is legally liable for bodily injury or property damage. There is no mention of premises/operations or products/completed operations within the insuring agreement – only bodily injury or property damage. The premises/operations and products/completed operations concepts exist only to delineate exposures, exclusions and exceptions, aggregate limits, and loss costs (rates).


Further, because a loss can no longer be classified or defined as a product or completed operations loss (only a BI or PD loss), there is no need for a Products-Completed Operations Aggregate Limit. All losses become subject to the general aggregate when the “products-completed operations hazard” definition is nullified.


Lastly, this same policy wording that supposedly excludes products/completed operations losses specifically refers to wording found in all “dagger” class code descriptions. When an operation falls into a “dagger” class, the class code description specifies that products/completed operations coverage is included. This removes all questions of coverage.


CGL policy wording complements and supports “Rule 25.F.” And “Rule 25.F.” supports the CGL. When an operation is defined by a “dagger” class, products/completed operations coverage is included at no additional charge and all BI and PD losses are subject to the general aggregate limit. About these points, there is no debate. 


A New Additional Insured Endorsement Specifically for “Dagger” Classes


When there is no separate products/completed operations coverage, extending additional insured status for products and/or completed operations coverage is impossible. However, ISO learned that named insureds are often required to add another party as an additional insured for completed operations, even when the named insured is classed under a “dagger” classification (meaning there is no separate completed operations coverage).


Attempting to explain to the additional insured that products/completed operations coverage is included in a policy for an insured in a “dagger” class even though a separate coverage is not shown is like arguing with a stump. They don’t understand insurance, so saying, “Trust me, products/completed operations IS covered,” won’t get it done. The additional insured wants to see that it has coverage for completed operations. 


To meet the “needs” or “desires” of additional insureds and end the arguments, ISO introduced the CG 20 41 Additional Insured – Owners, Lessees Or Contractors – Completed Operations Subject To The General Aggregate endorsement. Modeled on the CG 20 10 and CG 20 37, this new additional insured endorsement grants additional insured status to the named party for both premises/operations, similar to the CG 20 10, and products/completed operations, similar to CG 20 37. However, the defined term “products-completed operations hazard” is not used within the endorsement because it is designed for use with “dagger” classifications which no longer utilize the term.


Without this endorsement, there is no way for the policy to extend additional insured status for completed operations when the named insured is in a “dagger” class. All other additional insured endorsements extended products and/or completed operations coverage (i.e. CG 20 37, CG 20 39, and CG 20 40) depend on the defined term “products-completed operations hazard” to extend additional insured protection. Because this definition is effectively “removed” from a policy written on a “dagger” class operation, no completed operations protection is extended to the additional insured. The new CG 20 41 remedies this gap.


ISO filed the CG 20 41 for use effective 12/1/19. 


Scabbarding the Dagger


“Dagger” classes are basically actuarial creations. Yes, products and/or completed operations losses – if the insured has any – are still covered when the operation is in “dagger” classes, but because the products and/or completed operations exposures presented by these operations is negligible at best, ISO chose to include the products-completed operations coverage without charging a separate premium, classify all losses as either bodily injury or property damage, and include all BI and PD losses in the general aggregate limit. 


Simply being a “dagger” class does not reduce the breadth of coverage provided to the insured. All a “dagger” classification does is rearrange where the products and/or completed operations coverage is found.

Tags:  bodily injury  dagger class  property damage  virtual university 

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