General Liability Policies

A popular workers compensation insurance program offered by Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Company (Applied Underwriters) and California Insurance Company may be in trouble. On January 21, 2016, the California Insurance Commissioner adopted an administrative decision finding that a critical piece of the program had not been submitted for approval and was therefore void. Any company now insured under this program should carefully monitor developments and consider alternative options for workers compensation insurance.
Continue Reading Is Your Workers Compensation Program Unlawful?

Recently, I was asked to look at coverage for a case where the insurer had denied a duty to defend several years before. We concluded that the insurer should have been defending based on certain allegations in the complaint and asked it to reconsider. In the meantime, though, a successful partial summary judgment motion had dismissed the only covered claims. There is good law to suggest that the duty to defend should continue, but the client could have avoided an unnecessary fight had she retained coverage counsel at the outset.
Continue Reading Leave It to the Policyholder Professionals – Do Not Try This at Home

On December 16, 2015, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV) issued draft regulations for the deployment (not just testing) of autonomous vehicles. When adopted, they may be the first such regulations in the country. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is moving ahead with testing of self-driving technologies in anticipation of setting safety standards. Meanwhile, Google and virtually every major car manufacturer has stepped on the innovation gas pedal to develop self-driving technologies. Will regulators be ready when the cars are? How will the regulation of autonomous vehicles impact the liability landscape and, in turn, how that liability will be insured?
Continue Reading Autonomous Vehicles – How Will Regulators Keep Up With The Technology?

sample

As Bay Area residents prepared for thousands of football fans and media to descend on their region for the Super Bowl, one began to hear the sorts of rumblings that typically precede big events. Traffic will be terrible. Parking will be worse. Good luck getting a table at a restaurant. Oh, and good luck finding a place a sleep if you’re from out of town.

Former Mayor Willie Brown had advice for the naysayers: Rent your house on Airbnb! “Everyone is going to make a killing, including the private citizens who are smart enough to schedule a vacation paid for by Airbnb’ing their homes.”Continue Reading Insure Your Risk as an Airbnb Host

Toyota announced that it plans to invest $1 billion in a Silicon Valley research center for artificial intelligence (November 6, 2015). On November 10, Volkswagen said it had hired away from Apple its lead expert on self-driving cars. (Yes, Apple too has a secret car project.) While analysts’ views differ on when, most agree that it is only a matter of time before fully autonomous vehicles become mainstream.

The US Department of Transportation called recent innovations by car manufacturers a “revolution in safety.” Historically, automakers (strongly encouraged by insurers) have focused on engineering vehicles to enhance occupant protection in the event of a crash. That’s why automobiles today have a range of airbags – front, rear, side and even curtains – as well as a long list of safety enhancements, including structural reinforcements to the passenger compartments and advanced safety belts.

Today, vehicle safety has expanded into technologies that help prevent or mitigate crashes. Vehicles can automatically brake to avoid or minimize accidents, self correct steering if the driver wanders out of his or her lane, and can parallel park better than many humans. They do this by means of a variety of sensors, connected to a central computer running sophisticated software. By use of sensors and cameras, today’s modern car can “see” round corners, keep a steady (and safe) distance from the vehicle in front, and anticipate and prevent a crash. All of these technologies, though, still require an attentive driver with hands on the wheel.Continue Reading Autonomous Vehicles (Part 2) – The Capabilities and Liabilities of Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars are coming.  In fact, Tesla Model S owners woke up on the morning of October 15, 2015 to discover that a software download to the cars has made them capable of steering and changing lanes at high speed, slowing and stopping, and self-parking, in “Autopilot” mode.  The future is now, and self-driving cars bring with them a host of unanswered questions relating to safety, liability, and the insurance for protecting against liability.

Over the next few months we’re going to produce a series of articles looking at issues affecting insurance raised by autonomous vehicles, and how those issues may develop and change as the degree of autonomy – and the number and types of autonomous vehicles on the roads – grows.  For many years the insurance industry has been a prime mover in the field of vehicle safety.  One of the main concepts behind the drive to develop autonomous vehicles is to reduce crashes, particularly ones that result in serious injury.  95% of fatalities from car crashes result from human error.  How will the insurance industry keep up, and how will it adapt to the changing scenarios?Continue Reading Autonomous Vehicles – Where in the (Insurance) World Will They Go?

We encounter the following scenario from time to time: The defense counsel just scored a big victory, knocking out a key cause of action. The only problem is—the carrier now says that claim was the only covered cause of action, and since that claim has been dismissed, the insurer has no ongoing duty to defend. Can that be right? 

The short answer is no. The duty to defend is based on the “potential” for coverage. That means that, if there is any “potential” that liability will ultimately be established on a covered ground, there is a duty to defend. For example, if an insured is sued for intentional battery, but could be found liable based on negligence, there is a potential the ultimate liability will be covered, and thus the insurer has a duty to defend. Continue Reading Insurer Must Still Defend Even if Covered Claims Are Dismissed

Companies often monitor or record conversations between their employees and customers for training or quality control purposes. You’ve probably heard messages to this effect yourself. These announcements are meant to satisfy laws that prohibit monitoring or recording unless both parties to the call consent. Despite such precautions, however, companies sometimes run afoul of these laws and find themselves