Agency’s E&O insurance should cover independent contractors

Travel Agency


From Travel WeeklyMark Pestronk discusses a travel agency’s errors and omissions (E&O) insurance.  All independent contractors should have appropriate insurance to protect themselves and their clients and because it demonstrates that the contractor is independent and running his/her own business.  Mark writes:

Q: Are my agency’s independent contractors covered under my errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy? Colleagues and insurance agents have given me conflicting answers. Some say that if the independent contractor (IC) is incorporated, the policy does not cover the IC. Others have told me that I would have to pay an extra premium for coverage of ICs. However, large host agencies claim that their policies automatically cover everybody. So let’s say my IC falls for a phishing scam and gives out his GDS login, resulting in thieves issuing $30,000 in tickets on a Sunday against phony credit cards. If the airlines sent us debit memos for the credit card chargebacks, would we be covered by E&O?

A: Your E&O policy could cover ICs, and it could protect you against those debit memos. The answers really depend on the exact wording of your policy and the degree to which you are unwilling to take “no” for an answer from the insurer.

The most popular E&O policy states this about coverage of ICs: “Each of the following is an insured under this policy to the extent set forth below. … Independent contractors who are individuals acting alone, whether or not incorporated, working under contract with the Named Insured to sell the Named Insured’s travel services, but only when selling the Named Insured’s travel services or conducting the Named Insured’s Travel.”

So we can see that ICs are covered under some circumstances, even if they have their own corporations. However, the quoted language raises more questions than it answers.

What does “acting alone” mean? If the IC is incorporated, does the policy cover just the individual and not the corporation? What if the IC has a limited liability company (LLC) instead of a corporation?

What does “contract … to sell the Named Insured’s [i.e., the agency’s] travel services” mean, exactly? If the client belongs to the IC, does it mean that the client is not selling the Named Insured’s travel services?

A client of mine obtained one insurance agent’s answer to these questions as follows: An IC would be covered (as would his corporation or LLC) if the IC has no partners or employees and if the IC held himself out to clients as being affiliated with the host. For example, making sales as “John’s Travel LLC, an independent affiliate of Host Inc.” would be sufficient to cover all sales by John.

Of course, that is one agent’s interpretation of the ambiguous policy, and it is not binding on the insurer itself. Considering the huge expansion of the home-based IC phenomenon over the past two decades, it is really odd that E&O policies define these coverages so unclearly.

Read the full story at  Agency’s E&O insurance should cover independent contractors: Travel Weekly

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