What is a policy exclusion?

A policy exclusion is anything specifically not covered by your insurance policy. Every insurance policy has a designated section called “Exclusions”. The purpose of an exclusion is to limit coverages appropriately. Some policies offer coverage for certain risks for which the insured may not need coverage. Exclusions serve to limit excess coverages and often help reduce the cost of insurance.

What is a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy?

Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies are commonly referred to as General Liability (GL) policies and cover a business for liability against bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD). CGL policies cover claims, which occur on the premises, or from operations, product and completed operations, and/or advertising personal injury (PI) liability.

Commercial General Liability Exclusions:

Excluding certain coverages from your CGL policy is not a bad thing. Of course the more coverage you have the better protected you are, however, excess coverage for risks that are outside the regular scope of operations may be deemed unnecessary. A big reason why policyholders elect to include calculated exclusions is to remove unnecessary coverages for a reduced premium. On the flip side, carriers commonly issue exclusions for certain risks they are not willing to insure against.

The Prior Work Exclusion:

A popular CGL exclusion carriers request is the Prior Work Exclusion. For example, Paul is a contractor and carries a CGL policy with ABC company effective from January 1st, 2016 to December 31st, 2017. All throughout 2016, Paul is working and completing various jobs.

At the end of 2016, Paul is approached by XYZ insurance carrier offering the same coverages as ABC carrier but at a much more affordable premium. However, XYZ carrier’s policy includes something call a prior work exclusion. Not knowing the significance of the prior work exclusion Paul cancels his policy with ABC carrier and binds with XYZ carrier. Paul believes he made a wise decision because he has the same coverage limits he had with ABC carrier but at a more affordable rate. 

Four months later Paul gets a phone call from one of the clients he performed work for during 2016. The client informs Paul that one of the walls Paul built in the client's office unexpectedly cracked and fell down during the middle of the work day. The felled wall caused significant property damage and bodily injury to one of the client’s employees. The client is not happy and plans to sue Paul for damages. 

Paul calls XYZ carrier to submit the claim. XYZ carrier denies Paul’s coverage because of the prior work exclusion, which clearly states no work that was performed before the effective date of the new policy is covered. Paul now realizes that the prior work exclusion leaves him vulnerable to any and all work he completed prior to the effective date of his policy.

The Lesson Learned:

If you take away anything from this article, understand that exclusions can have a major impact on the quality of a policy. Do not take exclusions lightly and do not underestimate their importance. On the other hand, do not be afraid of exclusions either as some exclusions are okay when coverage is deemed excess and/or unnecessary. The best person to help you make these decisions is your insurance broker. A good broker will be able to identify these potential issues and will recommend alternative coverages to fit the unique needs of your business. 


Other brokerages take a cookie cutter approach to insurance and outfit their customers with generic coverage.  Skyline is different.  We believe insurance should be built on innovation and experience. We appreciate the fact that every engagement is unique and understand proper coverage requires a deep understanding of the underlying business and individual.

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