One of the issues many of you face as a personal lines insurance agent is keeping up with changes to your insureds policies. Unfortunately, not every insured is aware that they need to alert their insurance agents when they make a major purchase or change in their life. For example, if your insured buys a new tractor or an engagement ring, do they immediately let you know so you can amend their existing policy to reflect the purchase? Probably not. If you run into this problem, don’t worry, you are not alone.
The good news, however, is that, in the majority of cases, you are not at risk. In a recent court case in California, a judge decided that personal lines insurance agents are NOT responsible for reminding clients to make monthly payments, renew, or add coverage for a new item not previously insured unless the agent has done so in the past. This case was more focused on the renewal of coverage and whether or not the agent is responsible for making sure the insured is aware of coverage cancellation if the insured has been alerted by other sources (for example, the carrier). In the end, you, the agent, are not liable but that doesn’t stop people from holding you at fault. That is why you should take as many steps as possible to protect yourself.
Insurance Agent Errors & Omissions
First, you need professional liability insurance (also known as errors & omissions coverage). YOU need it, not just your clients. According to My New Markets, the general understanding in the industry is that 1 in 7 insurance agents will be sued sometime in their careers, and the average settlement of those lawsuits is approximately $16,000. Whoa. That is why professional liability insurance with First Dollar Defense is so important for you.
So, how else can you protect yourself? One great way is to institute a policy where you send out a questionnaire EVERY renewal period. We recommend sending the questionnaire out approximately 1 and ½ months before the renewal date. That gives your insureds plenty of time to answer. Another way to get more responses is to pitch in for a self-addressed, stamped envelope to go with the questionnaire. That makes it incredibly easy for your insureds to get it back to you. Many of the carriers we work with already have really detailed renewal questionnaires. You can either use one of those or make your own.