The president recently got himself into hot water with insurance companies when he spoke about the need for insurers to make good and pay up on claims for business interruption losses in the wake of COVID-19.
In a coronavirus briefing, the president went on the offensive, criticizing insurers for denying claims by businesses that have been paying premiums for decades:
“Business interruption insurance . . . when I was in private, I had business interruption . . . When my business was interrupted through a hurricane or whatever it may be . . . if I had it [business interruption insurance], I’d expect to be paid. You have people — I speak mostly to the restauranteurs, where they have a restaurant, they’ve been paying for 25, 30, 35 years — business interruption. They’ve never needed it. All of a sudden, they need it. And I’m very good at reading language . . . And I don’t see the word ‘pandemic’ mentioned [in the policies] . . . I would like to see the insurance companies pay if they need to pay, if it’s fair. . . But business interruption insurance, that’s getting a lot of money to a lot of people. And they’ve been paying for years . . . they’ve been paying a lot of money for a lot of years for the privilege of having it. And then when they finally need it, the insurance company says, ‘We’re not going to give it.’ We can’t let that happen.”
Yet, the same day, a group of Republican senators wrote to the president on behalf of insurers, urging him to resist efforts to provide insurance coverage for business interruption losses. The letter criticized ongoing efforts and proposals in state legislatures and Congress to clarify and ensure that the insurers make good on their duties to pay for business interruption losses.
The senators’ letter exposed what we knew from the outset: The insurers are nervous about the extent of business interruption losses. The industry itself predicts that business interruption losses could exceed $400 billion per month. In their letter, the senators note that “commercial insurers could experience significant economic strain and/or insolvencies, given the magnitude of the current cumulative estimated claims.” According to the senators, “The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, whose members are charged with ensuring the safety and solvency of the U.S. insurance industry, shares our concern.” In fact, that group issued its own warning about the insurance industry’s exposure to business interruption losses: “While the U.S. insurance sector remains strong, if insurance companies are required to cover such claims, such an action would create substantial solvency risks for the sector.”
So, it’s no surprise that they have been denying claims for business interruption losses – sometimes even doing so the very same day they receive notice of the claims, despite their obligation to make a good-faith investigation of the claim.
When the insurers deny coverage for the claims without even bothering to make a real investigation, maybe we shouldn’t just take their word for it?
Sometimes, you have to sue the insurance companies to make them pay.
We are actively investigating insurers for wrongfully denying coverage of business interruption losses during COVID-19.
Read more about our business interruption insurance practice here.
Read the president’s remarks here.
Read the Republican senators’ letter here.