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Restaurants, Small Businesses Struggle To Survive As Insurance Rates Rise Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

BUTLER, Pa. (KDKA) -- For small businesses and restaurants, survival is the name of the game.

"This is just another nail in the coffin. They just need some good news sooner or later," said Chuck Moran.

Moran is the Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, and he's referring to the most recent bill to hit these business owners.

"I am starting to get a few calls from members who are saying what's going on with the liability insurance markets? My rates for the upcoming year really went through the roof. I spoke to one guy who had a pretty clean record and his almost doubled," Moran said.

So what does the liability insurance cover for these owners? KDKA took the question to the experts.

"Most business policies, most business liability policies have what's called a viral outbreak exclusion meaning if there is an incident where a company is held liable because someone got sick, in this case, COVID -19, the company is not going to provide coverage for that," said Matt Kirschner with Insurance Services of Zelienople.

Kirschner said this exclusion is in nearly every business policy and was added after the SARS outbreak in 2003.

"It's just very hard to price for something that affects everyone all at once," Kirschner said.

So if the coverage won't pay out a COVID-19 claim, why the increase in rates?

Kirschner told KDKA the exclusion is a big gray area for insurance companies and right now, there are numerous lawsuits in several states that these claims should be covered.

"A lot of insurance companies are maybe anticipating more lawsuits, having to pay out more legal costs that sort of thing so they are protecting themselves against that. So if another year goes by and that's not the case, we may see those rates come back down or we may see them continue to rise," Kirschner said.

Kirschner's advice to businesses seeing a rise in rates is to shop around for the best policy. He also encourages those businesses to follow the CDC guidelines because that will help protect the business if a patron were to come back with a lawsuit after contracting the virus.

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