What is E&O insurance and who needs it?

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What is E&O insurance?
Errors and omissions (E&O) is the insurance that covers your company, or you individually, in the event that a client holds you responsible for a service you provided, or failed to provide, that did not have the expected or promised results. For doctors, dentists, chiropractors, etc., it is often called malpractice insurance. For lawyers, accountants, architects or engineers, it may be called professional liability. Whatever you call it, it covers you for errors (or omissions) that you have made or that the client perceives you have made.

Most E&O policies cover judgments, settlements and defense costs. Even if the allegations are found to be groundless, thousands of dollars may be needed to defend the lawsuit. They can bankrupt a smaller company or individual and have a lasting effect on the bottom line of larger companies.

In short, E&O coverage provides protection for you in the event that an error or omission on your part has caused a financial loss for your client.

Who needs E&O insurance?
The best-known professionals who need E&O insurance are doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, etc. However, less thought about individuals range from advertising agencies to commercial printers, Web hosting companies to wedding planners. If you are in the business of providing a service to your client for a fee, you have an E&O exposure. You may want to consider what will happen if the service is not done correctly or on time, and it costs your client money or harms their reputation.

Why does my company need coverage?
To put it very simply, everyone makes mistakes. Even with the best employees and the best risk management practices in place, mistakes will be made. No one is perfect.

If a freight forwarder sends a shipment to South America instead of South Africa and it is a time sensitive shipment and their client loses a sale and, therefore, hundreds of thousands of dollars, who will pay the loss?

If a wedding planner reserves the reception hall, the band, the caterers, etc., for May 22 instead of May 29 and everyone shows up except the wedding party and guests, who pays? And imagine the emotional distress caused to the bride if this were to happen!

There is also the less tangible loss of reputation for both the professional and his client. What will the cost be to the business that now has equipment in South America instead of South Africa? Will they lose future contracts with their current client as well as future clients?

By not purchasing E&O a company can be taking a serious financial risk. These types of losses are not covered under a general liability policy. And, as stated earlier, even if you are not at fault, litigation is both time consuming and expensive.

When should you buy E&O insurance?
As with any insurance, the best time to buy an E&O policy is before the risk is taken. If you are in the service industry and you know you will have the exposure, make E&O insurance a part of your insurance portfolio. Many contracts with clients will require insurance to be in place. In some cases, it is a selling point with your clients. It gives them the peace of mind of knowing they will be compensated if there is an error or omission.

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