It’s a fact: as you attempt to achieve your company’s goals, you will naturally take a number of risks that may bring about accidental losses to your property, to your income, through liability to others, etc.
Perish the thought!
The harsh reality is that, unless you are properly prepared to prevent these losses – and to “transfer” them to an insurance company when they do happen – the consequences could completely destroy or cripple your business. That’s why we prefer to call “risk exposures” and their potential consequences:
Calling them “The Monsters” helps us remember that these are not simply words you find on some “risk assessment report” that lies forgotten on your company’s intranet.
So, with the goal of helping you become aware of some of the monsters you need be on the look out for, let’s take a look at 8 loss scenarios specific to technology companies.
By the way, if you’re thinking “I’m fine. I have business insurance”, just remember that a General Liability insurance policy (which is the most common type of insurance a business would carry), would NOT protect you in the scenarios listed below. That’s because General Liability is there to protect you primarily against claims of property damage and bodily injury .
Tip: As you read each example below, ask yourself: Could this particular Monster attack my business? What are we doing (other than insurance) to mitigate the consequences of this Monster’s attack? Do we have the proper insurance protection for this scenario?
OK, here we go:
Errors and Omissions in general:
The first monster that IT companies and IT professionals must be aware of is the infamous “E & O” monster.
‘E & O” stands for Errors and Omissions, aka Professional Liability …. or, as it is known in other fields, “Malpractice liability”.
It’s usually your clients who will wake up the “E & O” Monster and send it out to get you, when they feel that the financial loss they’ve just suffered was caused by:
– your company’s ERROR (something you did wrong) or….
– an OMISSION (something you, a as professional, should have done, but didn’t).
The “E & O” Monster also visits you when, for example, your client claims that your product failed to perform as expected.
What really sucks is that you can be sued, even if you didn’t make a mistake!
For example, let’s say you design a new invoicing system for a client and the client alleges the final system lacks the functionality they wanted. This happens, even though you delivered what you thought was required. If your client sues you (and you have the right insurance coverage) your insurance company will defend you, which protects you from having to pay the potentially huge ‘defense costs’.
Monster # 2: Where’s My Data? *
How did “corrupted data” create a $900,000.00 loss for a software vendor?
A communications company sues for lost revenue and expenses to recover billing files for wireless customers.
The billing files were deleted by their software vendor while updating the system.
Indemnity Paid: $750,000 / Defense Costs Paid: $150,000
Monster # 3: Software Fails to Maintain Employee Hours *
A company provides timekeeping hardware and software to its customer.
The software doesn’t function correctly; it fails to maintain employee hours worked and correctly apply the hourly and overtime rate of pay.
The failure results in over/underpaying employees and the need to replace the timekeeping clocks. The customer sues the provider of the hardware and software.
Indemnity Paid: $440,000
Monster # 4: Missed deadlines cause a breach of contract *
It’s was time for a company-wide upgrade, and a firm decided to outsource to an information technology and management services company all the replacement of hardware, software and infrastructure as well as telecommunications and related services in order to upgrade its ability to serve customers and address any problems.
The information technology and management services firm fails to meet deadlines due to a high turnover of staff and a breakdown of project management.
Indemnity Reserve: $2,000,000 / Expense Paid: $500,000
Monster # 5: Breach of Security *
A telecommunications firm is sued by customers claiming they were sold a defective system with inadequate security protections.
The customers claim the faulty system allowed individuals to access their phone system and, as a result, they incurred fraudulent overseas charges.
Indemnity Paid: $345,000
Before we move on, here a couple of interesting facts about data breach losses:
Based on a sample of 900 breaches reported to insurance companies 86% of the data breaches were discovered by third-parties (not by the companies whose systems had been breached), and 96% were avoidable with simple precautions.
Monster # 6: Defending software that performed as promised *
How about getting sued when you have not done anything wrong and your product performs as expected?
A software company was sued by a customer after he used the company’s cost estimating software.
The software itself was found to have functioned perfectly. The error was on the part of the user who later underbid a work project. The customer eventually dropped the case, but only after considerable legal expenses were incurred by the software company.
Indemnity Paid: $0 / Defense Costs Paid: $175,000
Monster # 7: Inability to deliver on marketing “promises” *
A personal computer assembler is sued by a group of consumers in a class action suit.
The suit alleges that the company’s equipment did not live up to advertised specifications. Citing issues such as lack of speed and poor upgrade capability, the consumers demand full refunds.
Indemnity Paid: $1,600,000
Monster # 8: Web design and integration services * *
Our policyholder was hired to create an e-commerce website for
trading and selling valuable collectibles. The client later alleged that our policyholder failed to deliver a working website and negligently recommended that the client purchase Web-enabling software from another company that then abandoned the project and the software.
Indemnity Paid: $180,000
Defense Costs Paid: $558,928
* Loss Scenarios (examples) marked with * provided by Chubb Insurance Company of Canada.
* * Loss Scenarios (examples) marked with ** provided by Travelers Canada.
I’ve limited this article to the brief explanation about Errors and Omissions and the other 7 loss scenarios because I know that most people won’t be naturally inclined to reading about insurance.
But when you think about it, being able to learn about real-life examples of what could happen to your business (without actually experiencing it) is a very simple way to identify potential risks ….. and that, my friend, is precisely step #1 to implementing a good risk management plan.
Insurance can help you when/if bad stuff happens. But there’s tons of stuff you can do, aside from purchasing insurance, to protect your business.
Eddie is a Risk Management and Insurance advisor specializing in Business Insurance for Technology Companies.