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Protecting small businesses in the Tar Heel State
Small businesses are doing big business in North Carolina, which boasts more than 890,000 small businesses—the ninth-highest number of small businesses in the nation. These small businesses make up 99.6% of all North Carolina businesses, and they employ 1.6 million people, or 44.3% of the private workforce in North Carolina. And that number is growing. In 2015, small businesses created 50,881 net jobs.
All this growth comes courtesy, in part, of North Carolina's robust business incentive programs, which offer growth and assistance to small businesses based on their industries, locations and more. But with today’s litigious business climate, it's wise for small business owners in North Carolina to take steps to protect their investments.
Top industries covered by Hiscox Insurance in North Carolina
North Carolina boasts a diverse array of small businesses, and entrepreneurs in a variety of industries can find coverage with Hiscox, which tailors each insurance plan to each small business's specific risks and needs. Small business owners who most frequently insure with Hiscox include those who work in the real estate, janitorial and cleaning, landscaping, photography, and IT industries.
Real estate agents
Buying or selling a home can be a stressful time, especially in North Carolina, where many communities are still struggling to recover from hurricane and storm damage. Real estate agents may have to face disappointed clients who may make claims of alleged failures to disclose defects, disclaimers, clear boundary lines and other issues that arise in the sale of a property.
Reliable professional liability insurance coverage, also called errors and omissions insurance, protects against claims against businesses that provide professional services—particularly in industries, like real estate, where large sums of money (and many emotions) are at stake in each transaction. Professional liability insurance can protect in cases of buyer's remorse, such as if the new owner of a beachfront property claims, however falsely, that they overpaid because the agent did not disclose that the property does not include a private stretch of sand. Professional liability insurance will also protect against cases of wrongful discrimination, such as if clients claim that they weren't shown certain homes because of their race, religion or gender. Even when such claims are baseless, they can result in lawsuits that put the real estate agent's business and reputation at risk.
In addition, general liability insurance, which protects against claims of bodily injury or property damage, can pay for damages incurred if, for example, a real estate agent accidentally knocks over an expensive vase while showing a client's home, or if a client trips and falls while visiting the real estate agent's office.
Commercial or home cleaning services
Whether their employees clean factory floors or clients' kitchens, North Carolina's janitorial and cleaning services operate at a level of risk every day. They work on-site at customers' offices and homes, they handle delicate and expensive items, they operate cleaning equipment owned by clients, and they use harsh chemicals. Even baseless liability claims can drain a business's assets, so Hiscox specializes in providing tailored coverage to give cleaning professionals peace of mind and protection against potentially litigious situations.
Most janitorial and cleaning services will choose the protection of general liability insurance, which protects against a third party's claims of bodily injury or property damage. This protection might be needed, for example, if a client trips over an employee's cleaning equipment and breaks a wrist; even if the client's injuries don't seem to be the employee's fault, the janitorial business can still be held liable for the cost of the client's medical care. Similarly, if an employee is cleaning an executive's office and accidentally breaks an antique lamp while dusting it, the customer may demand that the cleaning service pay for the cost of the lamp's repair—and the general liability insurance policy would cover the expense. General liability insurance also protects against claims of personal injury, such as if an employee is overheard gossiping about a client, who then sues the business for slander.
Whether they serve commercial customers, residential homeowners or both, a landscaper in North Carolina might operate heavy equipment around homes, use sharp tools near clients, and handle harsh chemicals—activities that all bring a heightened risk of bodily injury and property damage that expose lawn care providers to potential liability. For all of these reasons, Hiscox provides custom insurance that can fit each North Carolina lawn care business's specific needs.
General liability insurance is one of the most important types of insurance for a lawn care business to have. It protects against bodily injury, so if a client trips over a lawn care professional's tools and cuts open their hand, the policy will cover the costs of the client's medical care. It also protects against property damage, so if an employee breaks a customer's window in their home while working on the lawn, the policy will cover the costs associated with replacing the glass. And if an employee is at lunch and starts talking to the café's owner about a client in a false and unflattering way, the client hears about the discussion and sues for slander, the policy will cover the personal injury claim and pay for a defense attorney, as necessary.
Whether they shoot for the news, for corporate clients' social media pages, for personal portraits or other North Carolina customers, photographers have to liaise with clients, navigate challenging environments, and get the perfect shot, all while managing their valuable equipment—all activities that can bring a heightened level of risk to a photography business.
Photographers can help protect their businesses by securing reliable professional liability insurance coverage, also called errors and omissions insurance, which covers claims against businesses that provide professional services. These claims might arise, for example, if a difficult client is dissatisfied with a photographer's shots or if a faulty hard drive prevents a photographer from delivering on a contract.
General liability insurance, which protects against claims of bodily injury or property damage, provides another layer of protection. A photographer might face claims like these if a client trips over a piece of equipment, sprains an ankle, and sues to cover associated medical costs, or if the photographer's assistant is heard gossiping about a high-profile client who then files a slander or defamation lawsuit.
In addition, a business owner's policy, a combination of general liability insurance and business property insurance, can protect the investment of a photographer's professional equipment. For example, if a photographer's camera drops out of their car and onto the concrete, damaging a lens and a portable hard drive, a Hiscox business owner's policy could provide coverage for the damaged equipment and help cover the cost of recovering the data.
North Carolina's thriving business scene employs a number of IT consultants, who work with high-end equipment and delicate personal and business information every day. And just as IT consultants tailor information technology to meet their clients' needs, Hiscox creates tailored insurance plans to meet IT consultants' needs.
Because IT consultants can have a huge impact on a client's business, they can benefit from professional liability insurance, which is also called errors and omissions insurance. This policy would protect an IT consultant if, for example, an IT consultant reviews a client's website and network security in order to implement new security procedures, the client's website gets hacked a month later, and they lose revenue because the site was down. Even if the IT consultant hasn't made a mistake, the client might still make a claim of faulty work against them.
General liability insurance, which protects against claims of bodily injury or property damage, would also protect an IT consultant if, for example, they accidentally break an antique vase while visiting a client’s office . And a business owner's policy, which combines general liability insurance and business property insurance, would cover damage to the IT consultant's property or equipment, such as if a laptop gets stolen, a server is damaged during a power surge, or an office is damaged by a coastal storm.
More professions we insure in North Carolina
North Carolina Small Business Insurance
Is your business in need of North Carolina small business insurance? Hiscox can help; we offer customized insurance solutions to professional services businesses. Our products include professional liability insurance, general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.
General liability insurance, known as Commercial General Liability (CGL), protects your business from another person or business’s claims of bodily injury, associated medical costs, and damage to property. Some examples of what could be covered are below:
- Personal injury: At a convention center, two real estate agents were overheard making disparaging remarks about an executive at a nearby convention center. The conversation was overheard and got back to the executive. He sued the real estate agents. General liability insurance protects real estate agents against third-party claims of defamation/slander, bodily injury, associated medical costs, and property damage.
- Bodily injury: A computer programmer works from home one day so that he can accept a business delivery. The delivery man trips over a rock in the programmer’s driveway, injures his back and demands the programmer pays the hospital bills. General liability insurance protects computer programmers against third party claims of bodily injury, associated medical costs and property damage.
- Damage to client property: A business consultant was on-site at a client location. While eating lunch at his desk one day, he accidentally spilled his iced tea all over the client’s iPad. General liability insurance protects business consultants against third-party claims of property damage, bodily injury, and associated medical costs.
Learn about how much general liability insurance costs.
Professional liability insurance, also known as errors and omissions insurance (E&O insurance), covers another person’s claims against businesses that provide professional and personal services. Some examples of what could be covered include:
- Negligence: A cosmetologist accidentally misplaced a file with sensitive client information. Although it was an accident, the information was compromised and the client sued the cosmetologist. Professional liability insurance protects beauticians and cosmetologists against claims of negligence and loss of personally identifiable information.
- Dissatisfied client: A consultant recommended that a client restructure his business, including selling off marginal business units. The strategy backfired as the sold off units begin to prosper and the core business declined. The client sued the consultant for giving him bad advice. Professional liability insurance protects business consultants against claims of negligence and will appoint an attorney to defend them, even if they haven’t made a mistake.
Learn more about professional liability insurance.
Business owners policy (BOP) is a combination of general liability and business property insurance. BOP is often used to provide balanced coverage for small businesses who also want to protect their own business equipment. Some examples of what could be covered are below:
- A marketing consultant leaves a laptop at a job site overnight, and it is stolen. A business owner's policy could cover the cost the replace the stolen laptop, keeping the consultant in business.
- There is a gas leak in the shopping mall where a retail store is located, forcing the store to shut down for a week. A business owner's policy that includes business interruption coverage could protect the retailer from the costs associated with the loss of business.
Learn more about business owners insurance.
Key North Carolina laws and conditions driving increased business liability rates
Across the United States, all employers with at least 15 employees must guarantee freedom from employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion and disability. Employers with at least 20 employees must guarantee freedom from age discrimination, and employers with at least four employees must guarantee freedom from discrimination based on citizenship status.
North Carolina goes somewhat beyond this baseline level of protection. In addition to prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, and disability, North Carolina law prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information, HIV or AIDS status, military status or service, and sickle cell or hemoglobin C trait, and employers with at least 15 employees must comply with these laws. These additional protections open the door to not only employment discrimination lawsuits, but also to claims of retaliation—when a plaintiff claims that they were fired or otherwise punished after being involved in a discrimination complaint.
Careful business practices can mitigate the risk of wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuits. However, all North Carolina small business owners face the natural risks associated with a coastal location, including the tropical storms, wind damage and heavy rains that come along with hurricane season. For example, the North Carolina Office of Stage Budget and Management found that Hurricane Florence caused nearly $17 billion in damage after dropping more than 30 inches of rain in some parts of the state, causing widespread flooding that damaged tens of thousands of homes and other buildings.
Small business owners can help forestall some of these risks through custom small business insurance, including a business owner's policy that protects against property damage.
North Carolina workers compensation laws
According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, any North Carolina business with three or more employees—including full- and part-time workers, seasonal employees, undocumented workers and both adults and minors—is required to carry workers compensation insurance.
However, there are exceptions. Certain railroad employees, domestic servants directly employed by a household and certain agricultural employers are exempt from workers compensation requirements. Corporate officers may choose to be excluded from insurance coverage, but they are still counted as an employee for the "three or more employees" rule. But business owners such as sole proprietors, LLC members and partners are not automatically counted as employees, and they may choose whether or not to be included in workers compensation coverage.
Businesses can obtain workers compensation insurance from a commercial provider, such as Hiscox, or they can apply to self-insure with the North Carolina Department of Insurance. Only businesses with fixed assets of at least $500,000 may apply to self-insure, and self-insuring businesses must deposit an annual assessment based on their credit rating and claims liability. Businesses that fail to obtain workers compensation insurance can face stiff financial penalties of $50 to $100 per day, depending upon the number of employees, and may face misdemeanor or felony charges punishable by prison time.
How can Hiscox help your North Carolina business?
At Hiscox, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all insurance policy. Our expertise across a variety of industries helps ensure that each client's coverage—from liability insurance to a business owner's policy to workers compensation and beyond—meets their particular needs. We offer a range of benefits:
- Flexible payment options. Our monthly payment schedule, which comes with no added fees, can help you manage your cash flow.
- Tailored insurance. With Hiscox, you'll only pay for the coverage you need.
- Claims responsiveness. When a covered claim is reported, Hiscox will immediately assign a dedicated claim specialist to assist you.
- Worldwide coverage. A North Carolina business is covered for work done anywhere in the world, as long as the claim is filed in the U.S., a U.S. Territory, or Canada.
Get a fast, free quote now, and get the protection you need for your North Carolina business. If you have questions, you can call us at 1-866-283-7545 and speak with a Hiscox licensed agent, Monday – Friday, 7am – 10pm ET.
Hiscox Customer Reviews
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It was very quick and very easy to take care of.
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Our products have been approved by the North Carolina Department of Insurance and are underwritten by Hiscox Insurance Company Inc., a Chicago, Illinois, insurance company whose license number is 2815.
This information is provided to assist you in understanding the coverage we offer and does not modify the terms and conditions of any insurance policy, nor does it imply that any claim is covered. Coverage is subject to underwriting and may not be available in all states.
Administered by Hiscox Inc., a Delaware corporation that is a licensed insurance producer in all states and Washington, D.C. 520 Madison Avenue, 32nd Floor, New York, NY 10022.