The retroactive nature of long-tail claims makes occurrence-based CGL policies (commercial general liability insurance policies) very valuable to business owners, churches, school boards and landlords. These policies became available on the American market in the 1940’s. For an occurrence-based CGL policy to provide defense or indemnity, the property damage or bodily injury that triggers the policy must occur within the policy period. However, where the damage or injury does not become evident until years later (as often is the case with environmental damage, product liability or sexual misconduct scenarios), this insurance policy will still respond to a properly filed claim notice.
The commercial general liability policy insures business owners against claims made by parties damaged by the conduct of his employees, his products or his waste products provided that the damage occurs during the policy period and it is not the type of damage excluded under the language of the policy. Even where the employee’s sexual misconduct does not become evident some twenty years after the occurrence, this policy can still provide defense and indemnity. Even where the underground storage tank’s leak goes undiscovered for thirty years, as of the date the leak is discovered, the business owner can file a claim under his CGL policy issued the date the leak began. Even where the business owner’s product is not revealed as harmful for forty years, once its harmful effects surface, a claim can be filed under this policy issued when it was placed in the stream of commerce.
These are some very good reasons to treat your occurrence based commercial general liability policy like a valuable business asset. Yet often, business owners treat the CGL policy as if it had no value after its expiration date and they discard it with expired fire insurance policies to make room for new document storage. Should they try to obtain a copy of the policy at a later date they often find that the insurance broker issuing the policy has failed to keep a copy in his archives. Further, just knowing the identity of the underwriter does not provide the basis for an appropriately filed claim. Insurers receiving claim notices under commercial general liability policies without identifying policy numbers and policy periods typically reject the claim because they lack adequate information with which to locate the policy in their files.
“When old insurance policies are brought to the light of day, they put small business owners on the same playing field as governments and companies with deep resources.”
-Brent Huber of Ice Miller LLP in Indianapolis.
Jeff Carnahan, L.P.G.
Jeff Carnahan is a Licensed Professional Geologist (LPG) with over 20 years of environmental consulting and remediation experience and is currently serving PolicyFind and our clients as President. Jeff has contributed to the success and growth of PolicyFind through strategic market analysis and corporate risk management, as well as encouraging and upholding a superior level of technical expertise. Throughout his career Jeff has provided technical support to the legal community. He has served as a consulting and testifying expert regarding the cause, origin, timing, and cost of environmental releases, as well as cost-recovery claims on behalf of insurance policyholders.
Senior Insurance Specialist
David O'Neill, J.D.
Director of Investigations
Director of Operations
Kristen Brown brings more than a decade of research and managerial experience in broadcast journalism to the field of insurance archeology.
Alaina Paquette brings 5+ years of environmental and technical experience to investigative research. Paquette uses her experience to help uncover historical insurance coverage for PolicyFind’s clients requiring environmental cleanup. Paquette’s organizational and interpersonal skills provide solutions to help uncover valuable information for decades of old policies.