It had to happen.
Product liability insurance rates for the dietary supplement business, which have been in a steep decline for about seven years, have bottomed out in the previous ninety days, and are probably headed upwards in the coming term.
Why? Rates have declined by 80% according to some estimates. They couldn't go down without end. Insurers have been struck by shattering losses and an progressively litigious social environment. Interest rates are at monumental lows with no end in sight. The ebb and flow, roller coaster course of premiums for commercial insurance has historical precedence and is destined once again to rise.
Nevertheless there are several practical steps you can put into practice that improve the odds that you will endure the seller's market for insurance and be around to capitalize on the next buyers market when it comes.
Now, some tips.
Don't Delay Until the Last Minute
Start talking to your broker about your renewal at least 90 days before the renewal date. Underwriters will be asking more questions about your business, questions they weren't bothering to ask last year. Since the process is going to be more difficult, it will take more time.
Focus on Coverage- With Price
Take some time in understanding your coverage. And not simply for product liability insurance rates (although for most supplement companies this is far and away the most pricey policy they purchase). Are the risks you're most worried about insured in your current coverage? Are you aware of areas wherein you have exposure but no coverage? Read your policies, or better yet meet with your insurance professional and carry a comprehensive review of coverage. Be prepared, as one more characteristic of a "hard" or sellers market is that insurance companies invariably attempt to reduce coverage by adding up exclusions and endorsements that conflict with what you thought you were buying.
Inform Management for Higher Premiums
Nobody likes surprises. Mid-level managers at larger companies need to prepare the bosses for higher premium rates. Insurance buyers should communicate with internal senior management regarding the company's tolerances for uninsured risk, as deductibles may rise and high limits of liability insurance may perhaps no longer be an affordable luxury.
Step in to your Underwriters Shoes
Attempt to imagine yourself as the product liability underwriter for your business. What questions would you ask and how can your company respond to them? You accepted a 483 warning letter this year (it's on the internet and your underwriter will find it)-do you have a ready and logical explanation? Can you give copies of the certificate of insurance program you mange for your suppliers or-do you even have one? Are there any elements of your website that would frighten away an otherwise interested underwriter (sports nutrition companies should take special note of this suggestion). Have you jumped from carrier to carrier each year (red flag for an underwriter) or does your record show that you have demonstrated some level of loyalty to one or two carriers?
If you've had insured claims in the last five years, are you prepared to tell your side of the story as to what happened, and present supporting records if asked?
Select a Broker Who Specializes In Your Industry and Team Up
Have you ever said to yourself, "my broker clearly does not understand what we do"? Make it a top priority to find a broker who understands the supplement industry and will be an effective advocate for your insurance interests. Whether you supply raw material, finished product, or both, in a hard market the underwriter will still place you in the dietary supplement arena, where some unscrupulous characters still thrive. The reality is you are going to pay for that association, and a competent broker will have the skills to distinguish you from the rest of the pack.
In addition, most insurance buyers are not aware that all insurers offering product liability to the dietary supplement business require the use of a wholesale insurance broker to retrieve them. So the broker you select (hereafter called the "retail broker") must submit your account to a wholesale broker, who in turn will yield it to viable insurance companies. Most people are under the impression that their retail broker is talking directly with the insurance underwriters. This is not the case. As a result, the introduction of even another party to the buying chain makes the insurance procurement process more vulnerable to something "falling between the cracks." With two brokers (wholesale and retail) now in the picture, it is even more critical that a company select a competent and knowledgeable retail broker to coordinate the marketing of its insurance
So select your broker carefully-- and don't wait until the last minute!