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How Big Is Your Printing Business?

Bookmark and Share Success comes with a price. The more business you're doing, the more it's going to cost to do business. Maybe that's why so many small business owners aren't interested in growing beyond a few employees in a small shop, maybe that's why there are software developers making enough money to buy some office space, but prefer to run the business out of their garage. Ambition, empire building, it comes with its share of headaches.

Insurance is one of those areas where the law is going to put a completely different set of rules on you depending on how much business you're doing, and commercial printers insurance is no exception. If you're a small business owner looking to expand, something you may want to consider is your BOP. 

BOP's are for small businesses only. A BOP or Business Operator's Policy is basically a simple, all-in-one general liability and property insurance policy. It simplifies the process for business owners who would rather let the insurance run on autopilot. It is available to businesses with fewer than 100 employees, running their business out of a smaller workspace, and who don't need to buy more than a year of coverage at a time.

When you expand your business, you expand your risk. More employees means more people who could become injured, and people who are, let's face it, more likely to sue if they feel that your worker's compensation policy is not adequate. You're not likely to face civil charges when you're only employing your immediate family and a couple of friends, but the risks are compounded when you're staffing a full company. The laws regarding insurance take that into account.

If your business is growing, then you may need to look into expanding your policies regarding slander and libel, as well. As you start taking on larger projects, you're taking on greater risk of upsetting the wrong people with what you print. First amendment laws can protect printers to an extent, and your clients are most likely to take the brunt of the heat should charges be filed. However, an important rule of thumb in all litigious matters is that they're going to target whoever has the most money and resources with which to pay out. That's not a major concern if it's you and a small staff running your press out of a studio, but it can be when you start leasing an old warehouse and hiring enough people to fill it.

If you want to establish yourself as a major brand in printing, then it is absolutely worth the risk. Just know what you're getting yourself into

Your Excecuitives Can be the Biggest Risks.

Bookmark and Share Having the wrong executive in the wrong spot might create a legal problem, as well as a business headache. In the California appellate case Align Technology v. Bao Tran, Align sued a former employee, attorney Bao Tran, for stealing their patents and starting a competing law firm. The suit alleged that Tran used confidential information to assist a startup competitor and fund an unauthorized law practice on the side.

According to the allegations, Tran used company funds to apply for patents in his own name and for his clients, ran his side business using the company's phones and computer systems, and misappropriated company property by applying for patents in his own name.

Align allegedly learned of Tran's side business as the result of at least 13 phone calls from his clients, including one call in June 2005 from an individual who indicated that Tran had been his company's intellectual and patent attorney for three years. Tran denied these allegations and accused Align of defaming him and attempting to undermine his new business.

Bottom line: Don't assume that your executives aren't a problem. Many companies focus on rank-and-file employees, even though executives can cause 10 times the damage.

To read the case, click here.

Professional Liability Insurance: Protecting Your Name

Bookmark and Share Professional liability insurance is essentially there to protect your reputation as a professional.

Things happen. There are unforeseeable circumstances that can botch even the easiest job in the most capable hands. When that happens, most contractors, consultants, professionals and business owners are more than happy to help cover the cost to the client, to injured parties and so on. That's why the insurance policy is there.

Professional liability is there to protect specifically against claims of negligence by covering the court costs. These are the cases that we fight not because we don't want to foot the bill, but because a reputation is on the line, and at the end of the day, all any professional really has to lean on is a trusted name. That is the foundation of success in any field. You can lose your office space, you can lose your clients, you can lose some of your best employees, and you can always rebuild from there. Once your name has been stripped of value, however, there's not much left to do. Top talent will avoid the association with a negligent employer and clients and customers will jump ship.

These are the cases that you want to fight even at a financial loss. Even if you know that you're not at fault for a visitor who suffered an injury on your property, it may make more sense to take responsibility than to fight it in court and spend more money in front of the judge than you would have on the doctor bill. The more comprehensive your professional liability policy, the less likely you are to have to do this when your reputation is on the line.

Of course, you can't always have the case dismissed, so professional liability will cover the costs awarded to the plaintiff in a civil suit should you lose the case, meaning that you will be covered even where general liability coverage does not kick in. However, the real value in the policy is in allowing you to defend yourself against that civil suit in the first place, and, wherever possible, protecting your reputation within your industry.

Medical professionals rely on malpractice insurance for the same reasons, while insurers and lawyers will rely on errors and omissions, or E&O insurance. In any field where a professional mistake can prove incredibly costly or harmful, you will find some form of professional liability insurance being sold.

EPLI: Does it Cover Third Parties?

Bookmark and Share The purpose of third-party coverage in an Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) policy is to protect an organization and its employees from accusations of wrongful acts committed against customers, clients, vendors, and suppliers. Some EPLI policies also cover wrongful acts committed by third parties against the insured’s employees.

Harassment and all forms of discrimination are covered under wrongful acts. Discrimination claims include discriminatory practices against a person based on their race, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, pregnancy or sexual orientation. Harassment involves unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. Both verbal and physical conduct, as well as other forms of harassment that create a hostile or offensive work environment, are covered. Some policies also cover accusations of mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation and assault.

If your organization has a lot of interaction with the public, it is especially vulnerable to third-party claims like those described above. In some cases, EPLI carriers might not provide third-party coverage to firms with a high potential for claims. What they might offer instead is limited coverage, such as covering accusations of discrimination, but not harassment claims.

To protect your organization from third-party claims, you need to go beyond just purchasing coverage. You must implement policies and procedures that address discrimination and harassment issues, both from the standpoint of an employee’s actions and the actions of third parties. EPLI insurers are increasingly requiring employers to implement these practices before they will issue a policy.

Having policies in place will offer little help to stop third-party claims if employees aren’t adequately trained. New employee orientation programs should include a presentation outlining the organization’s harassment/discrimination policies. The training must also include how to report and handle a third-party claim. However, hearing the information once is not enough to insure compliance. Employees must be retrained periodically through departmental meetings. To maintain the effectiveness of departmental training sessions, be sure that supervisors are provided with copies of all policy updates and procedural changes.

One important caveat to keep in mind is that most EPLI policies don’t provide third-party coverage for accusations involving the violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Nevertheless, you should review your EPLI policy’s definition of a claim to determine the policy’s interpretation. Many policies define a claim as a “demand for monetary damages.” This definition can present a problem in an ADA claim, because many of these claims are asking for reasonable accommodations, not monetary awards.

That’s why it is important to ensure that your policy’s definition of a claim includes claims for non-monetary damages. A policy with this expanded definition will cover defense costs and indemnity connected with an ADA claim, but will not provide the funds to bring your organization into compliance with the provisions of the law.