Hulk Hogan Lawsuit Serves As Reminder For Business Owners To Verify Insurance Coverages

Former Professional Wrestler Hulk Hogan has filed a lawsuit against his own attorneys for failing to advise him of the potential for insurance coverage for defense costs in an auto accident case.  The case was reported on by Curtis Krueger of the St. Petersburg Times as well as several wrestling sites including  tblwreslting.com and Shawn Moniz of wrestlingnewsarena.com.   

According to the reports, Hulk Hogan's son, Nick Bollea, was in a car crash in 2007 that caused serious injuries to his friend, John Graziano.  Hulk Hogan was sued along with his son for the damages.  It appears that Hulk Hogan privately retained and paid his for private lawyers to defend him in the case.

Hulk Hogan's suit alleges that he could have received a qualified defense attorney for free because his insurance company would have paid the bill.  As with most automobile insurance policies, unless there was some valid reason to deny Hulk Hogan a defense, his insurance company would have been obligated to provide a lawyer to be paid by the insurance company. 

If you are faced with a claim that is covered by an insurance policy, you must submit the claim to the insurance company if you want to get coverage or a defense.  Once you submit the claim to your insurance company, the company would then either deny coverage, provide limited coverage, or provide a defense attorney and coverage.  In insurance circles, it is called providing an insured with "defense and indemnity."  This means, not only providing a lawyer at no cost, but the insurance company will pay the damages up to the policy limits if there is a settlement or judgment.

It is unclear how Hulk Hogan's suit is going to turn out, and only his allegations are known at this point.  The lawyers he sued have adamantly denyied any wrong doing.  Only time will tell what the real story is behind the decision to forgo an attorney appointed by his insurance company.

Nevertheless, the lesson from Hulk Hogan's lawsuit is clear.  Whether you are an individual or business owner, if you are faced with a lawsuit of any kind you should:

  • Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible
  • Determine if you have any available insurance coverage
  • Provide notice of the claim to the insurance company
  • Consult with an attorney about the availability of insurance coverage

Many times, I consult with business clients who are not aware of what types of claims might be covered by an insurance policy.  Determining the availability of insurance coverage is an important first step when faced with any loss or lawsuit.  Many times, determining whether coverage exists can be complicated and consulting an attorney may be necessary.  Additionally, early notice to the insurance company is important.  If you delay notifying the insurance company, the company may seek to deny coverage based on lack of timely notice of the claim prejudicing the insurance company. 

Hulk Hogan's case also serves as a reminder for individuals and businesses to review what insurances they have and determine if the coverages are adequate for both personal and business operations.  There are many types of insurance products on the market that business owners are not aware of or sometimes believe are too expensive.  You also need to make sure that the policies you purchase will protect the likely losses or damages claims you might face. 

Working with an insurance agent or a business attorney can help you determine potential insurance policies that might protect your company.  There are many types of insurances available for businesses, including policies that cover first and third party claims. 

TYPICAL INSURANCE AVAILABLE FOR CONNECTICUT BUSINESS:

  • Commercial General Liability
  • Workers' Compensation
  • Director's and Officer's Liability
  • Employer's Practices Liability
  • Products and Completed Operations
  • Umbrella and Excess Liability
  • Cyber Liability and Technology Errors
  • Property Insurance
  • Business Interruption and Indirect Loss Coverage
  • Environmental Risk
  • Intellectual Property Liability
  • Ocean Marine

Once a decision to purchase insurance is made, you should have an insurance management plan in place.  At its simplest form, this amounts to having all your insurance polices, and proof of premiums paid, organized and cataloged in one place.  Your insurance portfolio should be reviewed periodically, or at least annually, to make sure there are no gaps in coverage.  It also is a good idea to have an annual review with an insurance agent or attorney to make sure you have the most updated coverages.  

Insurance Might Be An Option for Data Loss Lawsuits Alleging Negligence Against Businesses

Every business in Connecticut, big or small, faces significant financial consequences for data loss or a breach of security.  As I noted in a business tips post on this blog, implementing a strong data loss and privacy policy is critical for preventing a loss or mitigating its effects and damages.  Of course, once you have a policy or procedure in place, your business could face a lawsuit for negligence for violation of these same policies and procedures.   To add extra protection against the devastating costs of data loss or a security breach, businesses should also consider insurance coverage.

Lawsuits over data loss and security breaches are becoming more common.  Obtaining insurance to cover losses from data loss can potentially save your business.  Business litigation attorneys bringing lawsuits over data losses often include negligence as one of the grounds or theories of recovery in these cases.  Take for example, the recent class action lawsuit for data loss filed against Aetna in Federal Court in Pennsylvania.  The lead theory of recovery in the complaint against Aetna is negligence.   

There may be many reasons why attorneys pursue negligence as a theory of recovery in these security and privacy cases.  However, pursuing a negligence theory increases the possibility of triggering the breaching company's insurance coverage for data loss, if the company has a policy.  If a business has insurance coverage that applies to the allegations in the complaint, the insurance company typically will also provide a legal defense to the claim.   Legal costs alone could be enough to sink a business, let alone the damages.   

When considering the cost of a data loss insurance policy, a business owner should likewise consider the cost to the business of a data breach.  How can you estimate the cost?  One way to estimate the cost is to use a data loss calculator.  You might also estimate your data loss costs by referencing this 2009 Ponemon Institute benchmark study estimating costs at $202 per page and rising. 

The price of an insurance policy may be cost effective when you consider the potential devastating financial impact of a major data loss or security breach.  In addition, if a business has a strong data loss policy and procedure in place, the cost of insurance should be lower.   Although cyber liability insurance has been available for over ten years, more of these insurance policies are being offered at better prices today.  Here are some links to major insurance companies offering insurance policies for data loss, cyber liability, and technology errors. 

Technology 404 by Darwin.

CyberChoice by The Hartford

 CyberSecurity by Chubb

ACE DigitTech

OneBeacon @vantage