The longer the pandemic lasts, the more stir-crazy everyone becomes. Events are beginning to open with farmer’s markets, football games, holiday attractions and more community gatherings.
Venues have a difficult decision to make when it comes to hosting these events. P&C Insurance carriers can help inform policyholders on liability guidelines and how the spread of the COVID-19 virus may or may not be covered by their policy.
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Does general liability insurance cover COVID-19 claims?
In many cases, general liability insurance will not cover COVID-19 claims.
Similar to why travel insurance will not typically provide coverage, the pandemic could be considered a “foreseen event.” Coverage may be restricted by whether or not contracting the virus could be seen as an “accident” or “occurrence.” It is important for each case to be reviewed individually according to policy details, which could group “batches” of occurrences for coverage or may not provide coverage at all against the virus.
Aside from general liability insurance, health insurance will likely cover employees of a venue from the costs of COVID-19, such as football players and vending staff at a stadium. For armature sports and small local venues, homeowners insurance may provide liability coverage for individuals while an additional combination policy could provide coverage against COVID-19 on an excess basis.
While the virus makes it difficult to assign blame, contract tracing could be applied as evidence that an event has added to the spread of the virus. Insurers may benefit by offering liability coverage to specifically protect against infectious disease.
Tips for Insurers & Event Planners
It is in the insurer’s best interest for policyholders to exercise caution with reopening. The CDC continues to advise against group gatherings this fall and has offered the following guidelines among many others to consider when planning a large event:
1. Collaborate with state and local health officials to understand the event’s unique location-based risks and comply with current regulations.
2. Continually assess whether to postpone, cancel or reduce the number of attendees as the event’s date nears.
3. The lowest risk in-person event is held outdoors with social distancing of 6 feet, mandated masks, no objects passed or shared between individuals and no out-of-area attendees that may spread the virus from a separate community.
Minimizing Liability for Stadiums & Sporting Events
The average pro football stadium can fit 60,000 spectators compared to around 20,000 spectators for the largest high school stadiums. The size of these crowds cause challenges for social distancing unless there are regulations in place.
Some pro football teams have expressed specific guidelines to exercise caution while allowing spectators, such as by only allowing 15% occupancy, banning tailgating, requiring masks for all attendees over 2 years old, and putting restrictions in place for cashless transactions.
Another recommendation is to consider posting a sign at each entrance to the event informing each attendee of their risk of catching the virus by entering the event. These signs or waivers do not hold up in court as evidence the attendee has waived risk and the signs are instead recommended for enhancing awareness and safety rather than expressing lack of liability.
Insurers should consider requiring a risk management plan from the insured. This plan would provide guidelines on how the venue plans to minimize risk according to recommendations by the CDC and others.
Moving forward, a likely trend will be for insurers to exclude coverage on infectious diseases altogether while other insurers provide specialty coverage.
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