No-one will sue me or blame me

Posted by 27 December, 2014 (0) Comment

Business is easier to do when people are getting on yet it pays to keep everyone happy when relationships start to falter. This article is about money, the fact that it talks when opinions differ and why it is a foreign language for some.

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I’ve had an idea…..but I can’t do it on my own

 

Inventors are not just stuck in sheds. Some of them are hugely creative and have big idea after big idea. I am contacted by inventors when they want to protect an idea they’ve created. Most of them are in “start-up” mode and it takes time for the income to pour in.

However, they still need services to help them lift off and it is not uncommon to reach bartering agreements or agree profit or equity shares with those that help them out. Wonderful isn’t it? In an ideal World, yes, in the real World it depends. Recently, I’ve been contacted by two different companies who both had similar issues with such agreements . They were both being taken to court when such “contracts” had gone sour, they were very loose unwritten agreements.

We can’t agree about everything

 

But it pays to sit down and agree the basics. The first indication that something was going wrong was the receipt of a legal document outlining a case of a service provided that hadn’t been paid for. In each case the inventor thought they had “come to an agreement” yet the complainant asserted that nothing had been written down and they expected a prompt realisation of profits, which is rare. Both inventors were upset as well as being annoyed. One was being asked for £40,000 in fees for work they had “ordered”. The other was being invoiced for £18,000 fees for time spent “assisting” the start-uo.

Even after the first legal notice was issued, the inventor contacted the person that was “owed” the £40,000 and came to another agreement. They were somewhat surprised to learn, soon after, that the complainant had obtained a judgement against them and bailiffs were chasing them for money they didn’t have. Sometimes, the courts do odd things. Launching an appeal has proved fruitless for at lease one company facing a wind up order. Their business was closed down by a judge before the appeal date arrived. It is beyond belief.

You owe me, I sue you

 

Eventually, the money was found yet it had been earmarked for marketing so the launch had to be delayed in one case. The debts were paid when they may not have been legally liable to pay them. They were forced to settle because they didn’t have the resources to defend themselves.

Defending yourself doesn’t have to be ridiculously costly but it does take up time. High quality legal resources have to be paid for. It’s not only about what you sign, it’s about what you agree.  Verbal agreements are often considered binding by one party and failure to defend a corner means louder voices are likely to be heard. The balance between defending and paying up doesn’t always leave defendants between a rock and a hard place. I have plenty of clients who have successfully defended  spurious allegations.

Wrap up; Contracts aren’t always big documents and verbal agreements are often taken seriously. It’s really difficult to juggle all the tasks when unexpected legal issues arise. Not to mention the upset if you don’t know where to turn.

Top tip; Do not ignore issues that are on the “too difficult list”. They have a habit of resurfacing  and investor shareholders hate that too. It is not fair but the deepest pockets usually win.

Categories : After The Event,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is the dirty little secret of Insurance?

Posted by 1 November, 2011 (0) Comment

There are hidden clauses that loom large in policy documents and some are more sinister than others. Here I explain what the secret is, why it is dirty and how it’s still a secret.

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What is insurance companies dirty little secret?

The insurance market has a reputation of escaping from legal contracts using small print.

When businesses have a dispute they often seek legal recourse. The complainant will sometimes have insurance to cover such disputes. They ask their insurer to cover the cost of taking action yet policies prevent insurance buyers from taking action against insurance companies. Not much help if an insurance  company has refused  to honour the policy they issued.

Insurers do not make this clear. It’s difficult enough when commercial disputes arise, it’s galling to find that you have been given a false impression by the people you had invested in. Insurers paying claims want to reduce the most obvious or exclude them.  It’s unfair when the exclusion prevents you taking action against a supplier that has obviously got something wrong – as is often the case when claims are badly handled. But for insurance companies to close ranks in this manner, that’s pretty low. Whatever their reasons.

Why it is dirty?

Because it’s industry wide, it’s tantamount to a cartel. Have all insurers secretly agreed that they will support claims against any industry except their own? If not, why hasn’t an entrepreneurial insurer stuck their head above the parapet and issued a policy that covers taking such an action?

Insurance disputes are common and it’s not always the broker that makes a mistake. Insurers are often culpable yet it costs almost £20,000 to take action against them. That is bad for UK business. Of course, it could be down to the fact that the insurance actuaries have worked out that insurers nearly always win cases. I suspect this is because complainants often run out of money to fund their legal case. If I’m right the figures will always be skewed.

Why it’s a secret?

I doubt if insurance companies place this exclusion at the back of their policies by accident. It’s not front and centre as you would expect such a sweeping exclusion to be.

There are other secrets in policies that are difficult to unearth and comprehend. Yet the dirty little secret of not allowing your client’s to take action against your competition is the most sinister show stopper.

Wrap up: Insurance companies do not pay claims when the insurance contract between them and their policyholder has been breached. If they refuse to pay a seemingly valid claim policyholders need to dig deep to ensure they get what is due to them. 

Top Tip: Spend time assessing the key risk to your business and make sure you understand your insurance policies which are legally binding contracts. Make sure that important contracts and agreements are not excluded from your policies.

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Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,General Requirements,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Accountants insurance is changing

Posted by 31 August, 2010 (0) Comment

Accountants indemnity changes 1st September

 

I thought you might be interested to hear about the new rules for accountant’s professional indemnity. Here I explain why it’s important to make an early report of claim circumstances, where problems with timing could occur plus a clear definition of what should be reported.

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Why should I report a minor concern?

Some policyholders believe that premiums go up if they report scenarios that are not really claims. If they don’t report a “circumstance” it proves to be a false economy. When the rules change it’s even easier to make a costly late notification.

Claims don’t happen often yet the early warning signs are common. Questioning fees, complaints about service and a lack of communication are typical indicators that a client or third party may become litigious. Especially if they don’t get their own way.

 

Have the new ICAEW rules made it clearer?

The new wording applies to cover effected on or after 1st September 2010 and makes it clear that claims can and will be declined if “circumstances” are not reported before the expiry of a policy. The intention is to ensure that insurance companies are aware of possible claims before the policy expires.

There is no longer a wishy washy wording – previously insurers refused claims notified later than they would like. This was despite the policy being on a “claims made” basis meaning claims made after the expiry would be covered if the work was completed during the period of cover. The terms of notification were not clear.

Now, possible claim circumstances not reported within the policy period will not be covered. Period.

 

What is a circumstance?

Definitions in policy wordings can be subtly altered without the policyholder noticing. Insurance contracts are full of detail. A “circumstance” is anything likely to affect the underwriters view of the risk. That doesn’t mean all complaints should be reported.

It’s ridiculous to report all complaints so ask your insurance supplier to interpret what is termed reasonable by your insurance company. There is no need for the new rule to result in more red tape. The fact that I’m writing about it means it probably will at the change is embedded into the policy wordings. That is not the intention, it’s just the devil is in the policy detail. We all want claims settled promptly and correctly.

 

Wrap up: Attempts to make policies clearer add to confusion. Indemnity policies have strict timescales for reporting claims or circumstances. Guidance on what a circumstance is should be sought before a policy expires, ie. before the renewal date.

Top Tip: Uncertainty is not good for anyone. Ask your insurance supplier for clarification of expiry dates, notification deadlines and clarify what “circumstances” are real in your World.

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Categories : Accountants Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,General Requirements,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You don’t want insurance companies to pay fraudsters – especially if they’re using your premium

Posted by 15 February, 2010 (0) Comment

Have you contributed to Madoff’s legal defence costs?

 

Not all insurance disputes should be won by the insured, especially if they are fraudulent.

Usually I’m furious when I hear that an insurance claim has been declined. This time I was pleased; Lloyd’s of London successfully defended themselves in a US court when Madoff tried to appeal that Lloyd’s were wrong to cut off the funding of his defence costs.

Lloyd’s had already parted with $4million whilst the legal eagles prepared their cases. They pulled the plug after one of his cohorts pleaded Read the rest of this entry

Categories : Accountants Insurance,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,General Requirements Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,