Liability Explained: What Commercial General Liability Insurance Covers

Discover what commercial general liability covers, its importance, and how it protects your business. Get insights for tailored coverage.

Why Understanding Commercial General Liability Insurance Is Crucial

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve likely stumbled upon the term commercial general liability in your search for protecting your livelihood. But what does it actually cover, and why is it important?

Below is a quick summary of what commercial general liability insurance typically covers:

  • Bodily injury and property damage: Claims against your business for injuries or damages occurring on your premises or as a result of your operations.
  • Personal and advertising injury: Protection against claims of slander, libel, copyright infringement, and other reputational damages.
  • Products liability: Coverage for injuries or damages caused by products your business manufactures or sells.

Commercial general liability insurance is essential because it shields your business from potential financial ruin due to unforeseen claims and lawsuits. Whether it’s a customer slipping on your floor or an issue with one of your products, this policy helps cover legal costs and settlements that can otherwise be crippling.

I’m Griff Harris, CIC, and I’ve been dedicated to the insurance industry for over two decades. My experience ranges from underwriting with renowned firms to leading Griffith E. Harris Insurance Services. Understanding commercial general liability is essential for safeguarding your business, and I’m here to guide you through it seamlessly.

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Understanding Commercial General Liability

Commercial general liability (CGL) insurance is a type of policy that protects your business from claims involving bodily injury, property damage, and personal or advertising injury caused by your business operations or products. This coverage is crucial for any business, whether it’s a small startup or a large corporation, as it helps mitigate financial risks associated with unexpected accidents or legal claims.

Coverage Scope: CGL insurance covers a wide range of incidents, including:

  • Property Damage: If your business activities result in damage to someone else’s property.
  • Bodily Injury: If someone is injured on your business premises or due to your business operations.
  • Personal Injury: This includes non-physical injuries like libel, slander, or copyright infringement.
  • Advertising Injury: Harm caused by your advertising activities, such as defamation or misappropriation of advertising ideas.

Key Differences Between CGL and Other Insurances

While CGL insurance is comprehensive, it doesn’t cover every risk. Understanding the distinctions between CGL and other types of insurance can help you ensure your business is fully protected.

Professional Liability Insurance: This coverage, also known as errors and omissions (E&O) insurance, protects against claims arising from professional mistakes or negligence. For example, if a client sues a consultant for providing incorrect advice that led to financial loss, professional liability insurance would cover the legal costs and settlements.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance: This insurance is designed to cover medical expenses and lost wages for employees who are injured or become ill due to their job. It’s mandatory in most states and is separate from CGL, which does not cover employee injuries.

Product Liability Insurance: If your business manufactures or sells products, product liability insurance protects against claims of injury or damage caused by those products. While product liability can be part of a CGL policy, businesses with higher risks may opt for standalone product liability coverage.

Importance of CGL:

  • Business Protection: CGL insurance helps protect your business from financial losses due to lawsuits. For instance, if a customer slips and falls in your store, CGL covers the medical expenses and any legal fees if the customer decides to sue.

  • Financial Safety: Legal battles can be expensive. CGL insurance covers attorney fees, court costs, and settlements, ensuring that a single lawsuit doesn’t financially cripple your business.

Example in Action: Imagine a graphic design firm is sued for using a copyrighted image without permission. The CGL policy would cover the legal defense costs and any settlements, allowing the business to continue operating without severe financial strain.

By understanding the scope and importance of commercial general liability insurance, you can better protect your business from unforeseen risks and ensure its long-term stability.

What Does Commercial General Liability Cover?

Specifics of Coverage

Property Damage: This coverage protects your business from financial loss if you or your employees cause damage to someone else’s property. For instance, if an employee of an electrical company accidentally starts a fire in a customer’s home, commercial general liability (CGL) insurance would cover the repair costs.

Bodily Injury: If someone is injured on your business premises or due to your business operations, CGL insurance can cover medical expenses, legal fees, and settlements. An example is a customer slipping on a freshly cleaned floor in your store and breaking a leg. The policy would cover their medical bills and any legal claims they might file.

Personal Injury: This includes non-physical injuries such as libel, slander, and defamation. If your business is sued for an advertisement that allegedly defames a competitor, CGL insurance would cover the legal costs and any settlements.

Advertising Injury: Similar to personal injury, this covers claims of harm caused by your advertising. For example, if a competitor sues you for using their advertising idea, the policy would cover the legal defense and any settlements.

Premises Coverage

Premises coverage protects your business from claims that occur at your physical location during regular business operations. This can include slip-and-fall accidents, injuries from falling objects, and other incidents that happen on your property.

Excess Liability

Sometimes, claims can exceed the limits of your standard CGL policy. In these cases, excess liability coverage can provide additional financial protection. This is especially important for businesses with high-risk operations or those that face frequent claims.

Claims-Made vs. Occurrence Policy

  • Claims-Made Policy: Provides coverage for claims made during the policy period, regardless of when the event occurred.
  • Occurrence Policy: Covers claims for events that happened during the policy period, even if the claim is made after the policy has expired.

Choosing between these two types depends on your business needs and risk profile.

Examples of CGL in Action

Customer Injuries: A customer trips over loose flooring in your store and gets injured. Your CGL policy covers their medical bills and any legal fees if they sue.

Employee Accidents: An employee in your painting business accidentally leaves the water running, causing significant damage to a client’s home. Your CGL policy would cover the repair costs.

Advertisement Issues: Your business faces a class-action lawsuit for allegedly misleading advertisements. The policy would cover the legal defense costs and any settlements.

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By understanding these specifics, you can see how commercial general liability insurance provides essential protection for your business. Next, we’ll explore the cost factors associated with CGL insurance and how premiums are calculated.

Cost Factors of Commercial General Liability

How Premiums are Calculated

When it comes to commercial general liability (CGL) insurance, one of the first questions business owners often ask is, “How much will it cost?” The answer isn’t straightforward because premiums vary based on several factors. Let’s break down the key elements that influence the cost of your CGL insurance:

  • Type of Business: The nature of your business significantly impacts your premium. For example, a construction company faces higher risks compared to a consultancy firm, which means higher premiums for the construction company.

  • Location: Where your business is located can affect your insurance costs. Businesses in less populated areas might pay lower premiums because they face fewer risks compared to those in bustling urban centers.

  • Revenue: The higher your business’s annual revenue, the more you might pay for insurance. This is because more revenue often means more exposure to potential claims.

  • Industry Risks: Different industries come with different levels of risk. For instance, a restaurant may face higher premiums due to risks like food poisoning or slip-and-fall accidents, whereas an IT firm may have lower premiums.

  • Coverage Limits: Higher coverage limits mean higher premiums. If you opt for a policy that covers up to $2 million instead of $1 million, expect your costs to rise accordingly.

According to research, the average annual premium for general liability insurance is about $805, or roughly $67 per month. However, this can vary widely based on the factors mentioned above.

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Ways to Reduce Your Premiums

While there are many factors that can increase your premiums, there are also several strategies you can employ to keep your costs down:

  • Risk Management: Implementing effective risk management practices can lower your premiums. This includes regular safety training for employees and installing security systems on your premises.

  • Safety Protocols: Establishing and adhering to strict safety protocols can reduce the likelihood of accidents, which in turn can lower your premiums. For example, regular maintenance checks and safety drills can make a big difference.

  • Claims History: A clean claims history can result in lower premiums. Insurance companies often offer discounts to businesses that have not had any claims in recent years.

  • Business Stability: The longer you’ve been in business and the more financially stable you are, the more likely you are to receive favorable premium rates. Longevity and stability often translate to lower risk in the eyes of insurers.

  • Contractual Relationships: Be mindful of your contractual relationships. If you subcontract work or have third-party contractors, ensure they have adequate insurance. This can help mitigate your own risk and potentially lower your premiums.

By understanding these factors and taking proactive steps, you can manage your commercial general liability insurance costs effectively. Next, we’ll discuss additional coverages you might want to consider to ensure comprehensive protection for your business.

Additional Coverages to Consider

Why Additional Coverages Matter

While commercial general liability (CGL) insurance offers broad protection, it doesn’t cover all risks your business might face. Here are some additional coverages to consider for comprehensive protection:

Professional Liability

Professional liability insurance, also known as Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, protects against claims of negligence or mistakes in professional services. For example, if a graphic designer provides incorrect artwork that causes a client financial loss, this insurance would help cover legal fees and settlements.

Example: A client sues a hair stylist for allegedly giving them the wrong cut and color. Professional liability insurance could cover legal defense costs.

Employment Practices Liability

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) covers claims related to employment issues such as discrimination, wrongful termination, and harassment. This is crucial for protecting your business from costly lawsuits filed by employees.

Fact: Claims of discrimination or harassment can lead to significant legal expenses. EPLI helps mitigate these risks.

Product Liability

If your business manufactures or sells products, product liability insurance is essential. It covers claims of injury or damage caused by your products. This can be part of your general liability policy or a standalone policy.

Example: A customer gets hurt using a product you sold. Product liability insurance would cover legal costs and damages.

Commercial Auto

Commercial auto insurance covers vehicles used for business purposes. Personal auto policies often don’t provide sufficient coverage for business-related incidents. This insurance is vital for businesses that rely on vehicles for operations.

Example: A carpenter accidentally backs into a homeowner’s car on a job site. Commercial auto insurance could cover the damage.

Comprehensive Protection

Having a combination of these coverages ensures that your business is protected from a variety of risks. Each type of insurance addresses specific vulnerabilities, offering peace of mind and financial security.

Specific Risks

Different businesses face different risks. For instance, a tech company might need cyber liability insurance, while a restaurant might require liquor liability coverage. Tailoring your insurance to your specific risks is crucial.

Legal Requirements

In some cases, additional coverages are not just optional—they’re mandatory. For example, workers’ compensation is often required by law to cover employee injuries. Failing to have the necessary insurance can result in legal penalties and financial loss.

By considering these additional coverages, you can ensure your business is comprehensively protected against a range of potential risks. Next, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about commercial general liability insurance to help you make informed decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Commercial General Liability

Who Needs Commercial General Liability Insurance?

Sole proprietors, small businesses, and large companies all benefit from having commercial general liability insurance.

For sole proprietors, this insurance is crucial. Imagine a client visiting your home office and tripping over a loose rug. Without CGL, you could be responsible for their medical bills and legal fees.

Small businesses face similar risks. Whether you run a café or a small boutique, accidents can happen. A customer might slip on a wet floor, or an employee could accidentally damage a customer’s property. CGL insurance helps cover these incidents, protecting your business from financial strain.

Large companies also need CGL insurance. With more employees and larger operations, the risk of accidents and claims increases. For instance, a manufacturing company might face claims if a product causes injury. CGL insurance can help cover legal costs and settlements.

How Much Does Commercial General Liability Insurance Cost?

The cost of commercial general liability insurance varies widely. On average, small businesses pay about $805 annually, or roughly $67 per month. However, premiums can be as low as $300 or as high as $1,000 depending on several factors.

Factors affecting cost include:

  • Type of business: Higher-risk businesses, like construction firms, pay more than lower-risk ones, like IT consultants.
  • Location: Businesses in less populated areas often face lower premiums.
  • Revenue: Higher revenue can lead to higher premiums.
  • Coverage limits: Choosing higher coverage limits increases your rate.
  • Risk management efforts: Installing security systems or providing employee training can lower premiums.
  • Claims history: Previous claims usually result in higher premiums.

What is Not Covered Under Commercial General Liability Insurance?

While commercial general liability insurance covers many risks, some things are not included:

  • Intentional damage: If you or an employee intentionally cause damage, it won’t be covered.
  • Automobile accidents: CGL doesn’t cover vehicle-related incidents. For these, you’ll need commercial auto insurance.
  • Professional errors: Mistakes or omissions in professional services require professional liability insurance.

Understanding these exclusions helps you know when to consider additional coverages. For example, if your business involves driving, commercial auto insurance is essential. Similarly, if you offer professional advice or services, professional liability insurance is a must.

By knowing what CGL insurance covers and what it doesn’t, you can better protect your business from unexpected risks and ensure comprehensive coverage.


At Griffith E. Harris Insurance Services, we understand that every business is unique. That’s why we believe in tailored coverage. We take the time to understand your specific needs and risks, ensuring you have the right protection in place.

Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance is a crucial part of any business’s risk management strategy. It covers a wide range of potential issues, from property damage to bodily injury, providing financial safety and peace of mind. However, recognize that CGL doesn’t cover everything. For comprehensive protection, you may need additional policies like professional liability or commercial auto insurance.

Our team at Griffith E. Harris Insurance Services is here to guide you through the process. With over 75 years of experience, we have the expertise to help you navigate the complexities of business insurance. We are committed to delivering prompt, courteous, and responsive service, ensuring you feel supported every step of the way.

To learn more about how we can help protect your business, visit our Commercial Property Insurance page or contact us today for a free consultation. Let us help you safeguard your business and its future.

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