This issue recently came up with a client who was trying to determine which insurer had ‘better’ coverage. As frequently happens the client went no further than the declarations page to come to a conclusion.
There is no standard Professional Liability Insurance Policy. Attorney Malpractice policies may have similar coverages but the wording and how they are defined are all different. Some insurers list more information on their declarations pages then other carriers. Other insurers provide coverage information by endorsement and still others provide it in the policy language. This makes apples to apples comparisons of policies difficult. It also means that just ‘top-sheeting’ your policy can lead to incorrect conclusions.
Personal Injury coverage is just one example of how insurers handle coverages different. Personal Injury coverage is listed on declarations pages for some insurers. Most insurers do not list Personal Injury limits on the declarations page. This can lead to the impression that one insurer is covering Personal Injury while another is not. So the conclusion for the ‘top-sheeter’ is that the insurer that lists Personal Injury on the declarations page offers more coverage. This mistaken perception actually could actually be the inverse.
When an insurer lists or defines coverages and puts a limit on that coverage, it can be for a lesser amount that the ‘Limits of Liability’. Many times this is called a sub-limit. If this is the case the insurer that merely defines ‘Personal Injury’ and does not exclude the coverage provides the entire limit of liability for Personal Injury, not just a sub-limit.
As an insured if you are purchasing a policy with say $1 Million for each Claim and $1 Million for the Policy aggregate as stated on the declarations page as the ‘Limit of Liability’. The insurer that does not sublimit the policy is providing $1 Million of Personal Injury coverage. Now the insurer that lists a limit for Personal Injury on the declarations page shows a limit of $100,000. So for the ‘top-sheeter’ which is more coverage?