Rising commercial liability insurance rates threaten to further impact an industry already crippled by COVID-19.
Dickens Pub in Calgary recently reopened to the public after being closed for most of the last two years. Owner Chris Hewitt said he was excited to reopen until he began receiving quotes from his insurance broker.
“The quotes we received were up to 600 percent higher,” he told Global News.
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Hewitt asked how that could be and said he was told that because his business sells liquor and plays loud music it was “risky.”
“They told us that basically the degree of risk associated with live music venues and the pandemic is off limits right now.”
Hewitt told Global News that he does everything he can to minimize any risk to his business, adding that he has never filed a liability claim in the entire time he has been in business, 14 years now.
“The frustration for the live music industry is that there is nothing we can do about it,” he said. “Everyone knows that we must have insurance to be able to operate, so they just tell us ‘This is what it will cost you’ and that’s it, that’s the end of the story.”
Ultimately, you were able to get a lower cost, still 60 percent higher than the original price.
“We are still looking for between $ 15 and $ 16 thousand a year more. It’s quite shocking. “
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The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) told Global News that in terms of commercial liability, insurers are losing a lot of money.
IBC’s vice president for the Pacific region Aaron Sutherland said general liability claims in Alberta and Canada have skyrocketed.
“So in Alberta alone, between 2017 and 2019, liability claims nearly doubled from just over $ 300 million to over $ 600 million,” Sutherland said.
He added that it included liability claims for these types of places.
“People get drunk, leave these establishments, come home and injure themselves or someone else and then hold these establishments accountable.”
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He said the insurance industry is experiencing a growing trend, similar to what has been common south of the border.
“We’re seeing a little bit, if I may suggest, an American influence, that litigious influence creeping into Canadian society,” he said.
“We are getting more litigious, we are seeing more people file claims and lawsuits against establishments if they get hurt.”
Sutherland said that the increase in the number of claims combined with the larger size of the awards handed down by the courts is putting immense pressure on insurance premiums.
He is asking the province and federal governments to examine both, as well as the time limits allowed.
or file a lawsuit.
“Currently they (claimants) have up to two years if they are injured at one of these facilities,” Sutherland noted. “That is an excessively long time and creates a lot of uncertainty for insurance companies to know what is going on with those claims.”
Sutherland added that until all of these things are examined and changed, premiums are likely to continue to rise.
Hewitt does not dispute the fact that claims have been made, but does not believe to the extent that it has been presented. He also added that anyone can get hurt anywhere, so he doesn’t know why places like his are being hit with such harsh hikes.
He also questioned why the walk “now” and added that it doesn’t make sense, considering everyone was in a waiting pattern and didn’t make any claims, certainly no liability claims related to drunk and injured customers.
“It doesn’t follow what has been happening,” he told Global News. “We’ve all been closed for so long and then when we were ready to open again, costs skyrocket.”
“It is so difficult for us to do business right now, it has been so difficult for us to continue as it is with the pandemic, and now this.”
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