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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Protecting The Bottom Line

Considering the costs of the equipment you rely upon to make a living as a photographer, understanding how to insure that gear is of paramount importance

This Article Features Photo Zoom

insuranceLabor Day weekend. For most people, it’s the symbolic end of the summer. For sports photographers in south Florida, it also means the beginning of football season and the beginning of the more active half of the hurricane season. For me, Labor Day weekend also is the time of year when I verify all of my insurance coverage, confirm that my list of covered equipment is up to date and reassess the values of insured equipment. In a good year, this involves making a few phone calls to insurance agents, reviewing some paperwork and sending off the annual premium checks. In a bad year, this also involves the frustrating process of trying to secure coverage without buying a pig in a poke.

Several years ago, the insurance carrier insuring my equipment decided to phase out that line of business. Thus started the hunt for a new policy to cover my equipment. At the time, it seemed fortuitous that the insurance company underwriting most of my risks decided to expand its commercial lines to include equipment coverage. After a few telephone conversations and e-mails with the agent regarding the nature of coverage needed, the company sent out a package containing the declaration page—the page detailing the amount of coverage, the period for which coverage will be effective and the applicable deductions—as well as the contract for insurance, including the various exclusions.

“Houston, We Have A Problem”
Reading the exclusions, I realized almost immediately that there was a problem with the coverage. The policy contained an exclusion that effectively precluded coverage for equipment damaged through any sort of accident. Such an exclusion was inconsistent with the nature of coverage I explained was needed; I had even explained to the agent that one of the hazards associated with photographing football and basketball games was the possibility of having a player run into and damage equipment while shooting from the sidelines or courtside.

A call to the agent confirmed the problem. After pointing out the exclusion in question, the agent confirmed that the policy issued wouldn’t cover accidental damage of the sort I had described. In essence, the policy only covered the equipment if it was stolen out of my house or my car, but not if it was damaged while working. In other words, it wasn’t an all-risk policy.

Fortunately, I had described not only the nature of coverage sought to my agent over the telephone, but the same information had been conveyed in a series of e-mails. Since the e-mails left little question as to the requirements of the policy, the agent and insurance company were left with a simple choice: Either provide coverage consistent with the e-mails or refund the premium. The insurance company promptly agreed to refund the premium.

While I ultimately secured coverage through another carrier, the lesson was clear: No matter what the agent says, always make sure that you read the policy to determine whether it provides you with the coverage for which you bargained. If you have questions after reading the policy, present them to your insurance agent.

There are undoubtedly more than a few photographers who haven’t read their own insurance policies. “I don’t read every word of my policy, but do skim through it, which usually creates a few more questions for my agent,” says Halifax, Pennsylvania-based equine photographer Annie Duncan. The time to ask those questions is when the policy is written and long before you need to make a claim.


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