There are many issues to consider when insuring a vehicle that is owned and used by your business. The questions that surround these issues, and how you would answer these questions, will determine what insurance you need to properly protect yourself, your employees and your entire business. It is important to remember that for this insurance, you don’t want to just go with the cheapest option. Your business is at risk every time a business vehicle is in motion.
As a business owner, you need many of the same insurance coverages for cars, trucks, vans or other types of vehicles you use for business purposes as you do for vehicles you operate in your personal life. The Business Owner’s Policy you purchased for your business does not usually provide liability or other coverages for vehicles used in your business. That means you will likely need a separate vehicle policy.
Most states require you to purchase liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage that may result from a vehicle accident occurring while you or someone from your organization is driving for business. The Business Auto Coverage Form (BACF) is the most commonly used contract for providing business auto liability insurance. Although the form refers only to “autos,” autos are defined to include cars, trucks, trailers, vans or other vehicles designed for use on public roads.
Many states also require you to have uninsured/underinsured motorist’s coverage and/or medical payments coverage, known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) in some states. You can also purchase physical damage coverage for vehicles your business owns, leases or hires.
Each vehicle you use in your business can be separately “scheduled,” or listed on your policy, along with corresponding coverages. In other words, you can choose different coverages for your various vehicles, depending on the vehicles’ characteristics and the coverage you need for each.
Do I Need a Business Auto Policy?
Your insurance agent will ask in detail how you use vehicles in your business: who will be driving them, whether you own, rent or lease, and whether you and your employees are likely to be driving their own cars for your business. The answers to these questions will indicate the types of coverage you need.
In general, only a BACF can provide the level of liability protection-with a recommended minimum of $500,000-that even a small business needs to cover the potential damages in a serious accident.
Will My Personal Auto Policy Cover Business Use?
Your personal auto policy may provide some coverage for business uses of your vehicle. By the same token, your employees’ personal auto policies may cover some business uses if they were using their personal vehicles for business errands.
If the vehicle you are using is used primarily in business, your personal auto policy might not be enough to cover any losses. It will most likely not provide coverage for any vehicle titled and registered to a business. If you, or your employees, are driving personal vehicles for occasional business activities that are covered by your personal auto policies, it is important to have sufficient liability coverage to protect the business in the event of a serious auto accident.
Many business people have a personal umbrella policy, covering claims that may result for damages personally caused to another. It is typical for an umbrella policy to exclude any claims while in the course and scope of doing business.
What Vehicles Are Covered in a Business Auto Policy?
The choice in business auto policies can vary, depending on the coverages offered by your insurance company. The BAP could apply only to one specific car, or could be extended to cover the insured’s use of any automobile. Most states offer three general options for which vehicles could be covered under your policy:
1. All autos owned by your business
2. All autos owned or leased or hired by your business
3. All autos used for the business, including those that are not owned, hired and/or leased.
Most businesses should consider the third option as it will likely be the policy that protects a business when an owner or employee are using a personal vehicle for business.
Details of the Business Auto Coverage Forms
-Be sure the titled owner is listed as the principal insured on the insurance contract.
-Be sure to have “full” coverage on your vehicles, comprehensive and collision.
-It is recommend that a small business have an auto coverage limit of $1,000,000. This amount of coverage does not usually cost significantly more, and it could save your business in the event of a serious car accident involving a business automobile.
-The combined single limit (CSL) on your business policy should likewise be $1,000,000 at a minimum.
-A business umbrella policy is always a good idea. Ask your insurance agent about what options might be available to you on your policy. This gives added protection as long as the underlying policies are in force at certain minimums.
When Your Business Vehicle Is Also Your Personal Vehicle
When an owner of a business, or an employee, drives a business vehicle for personal use and that person does not own their own personal vehicle, there is a gap in liability coverage. The BACF does not cover personal use of the business vehicle in these situations. An owner would need to add a “Drive Other Car Coverage Endorsement” to a BACF policy. This will allow for coverage to other vehicles driven by the business owner, making the policy now act more like a personal policy and covering the driver and vehicles under the business policy.
Your Business May Be Liable if You Allow a Bad Driver on the Road
You and your business can be legally liable for allowing someone to drive one of your business vehicles. If you fail to determine whether or not the person is qualified to drive or has a bad record, you might be liable for negligent entrustment. A case of negligent entrustment arises when you allow another person to drive your vehicle, knowing or having reason to know that the use of the vehicle by that person creates a risk of harm to others. Your business is responsible for verifying any driver’s qualifications before entrusting them with a vehicle.