Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio July
The Law & the Planner
By Jonathan T. Howe,
HOW TO BUY MEETING INSURANCE
What planners need to know when choosing a policy or
analyzing current coverage
Insurance is basically a means to cover the
cost of catastrophic situations. But because we can’t predict the
nature of unforeseen catastrophes, it’s a purchase that involves a
lot of informed decision-making.
BEFRIEND A BROKER
First, determine how much insurance you need. You should have a
reliable insurance broker who understands the meetings business and
the type of risks inherent in meetings, conventions and special
events. Your broker should be prepared to answer questions and
provide ongoing support in the event of a claim or other
Tell all. If you’re scheduling a 5K walk/race or a whitewater
rafting excursion, provide your broker with details about the event
to be sure you are properly covered.
Even the most mundane activities involve risk. A simple cocktail
party raises concern about liquor liability. The use of automobiles
by staff and volunteers can lead to liability if an accident occurs
when they are picking people up or delivering goods on behalf of
the meeting sponsor.
REVIEW YOUR POLICY
If you already have coverage, read your policy carefully to
determine if changes should be made. Coverage generally is broad in
nature; exclusions are the key.
The policy might cover “acts or omissions” that give rise to a
claim, and it might say any act that is “intentional or willful” or
in “violation of law” will not be covered. Well, most situations
involving liability stem from intentional and willful acts, not
negligence. Suppose a person is excluded from participating in part
of a program. If he sues on the basis of discrimination, the
insurance company will decline coverage.
There are two distinct types of insurance coverage. The most
popular kind covers “claims made.” That means a claim must be
registered during the period of time the policy is in effect. If
the policy covers Jan. 1, 2000, through Dec. 31, 2000, a claim made
after Dec. 31, 2000 - even for an incident that occurred during the
coverage period - would be excluded.
On the other hand, “occurrence” policies cover claims after the
policy dates for incidents that happened during the covered period.
Consider the asbestos cases that arose as a result of the
installation of asbestos in buildings during the ’40s and ’50s;
claims were not filed until the ’80s. Only those who had occurrence
policies in effect at the time of installation were covered.
PAY NOW, PAY LATER
Another consideration: If you are covered, when and how does the
insurance company come to your defense? One type of clause provides
for “reimbursement, hold harmless and indemnification.” That means
you have to spend the money first before the insurer will cover
The alternative is to require that the insurance carrier
“defend” you in the event of any claim, whether or not it goes to
Be aware of what you must do to initiate coverage. Most policies
require prompt notification of any threatened claim. Some just want
to know when a formal complaint or lawsuit has been filed.
JUST FOR YOUJonathan T. Howe, Esq.,
is a senior partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., law firm
of Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which specializes in meetings, travel
and hospitality law. Legal questions can be e-mailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A number of policies that specifically address issues meeting
planners face are available through meetings industry associations.
Meeting Professionals International provides several insurance
programs for professional liability for independent planners and
others, as well as convention cancellation and interruption
insurance. These programs are worthy of consideration, as are many
sponsored by other industry organizations.
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