Help For Businesses Unable To Obtain Liability Insurance

The availability and cost of business insurance, particularly professional liability and general commercial liability coverage, have attracted substantial recent attention. To help remedy this problem, two state programs assist businesses that are experiencing difficulty in obtaining liability insurance. These programs are the Joint Underwriting Association (JUA) and the Minnesota Market Assistance Plan (MMAP) program.

The JUA was created to provide liability insurance coverage only to persons or entities unable to obtain insurance through ordinary methods if the insurance is required by statute, ordinance or otherwise required by law, or is necessary to earn a livelihood or conduct a business and serves a public purpose. The legislature specifically authorized the JUA to provide insurance coverage to day care providers, foster parents, foster homes, developmental achievement centers, group homes, sheltered workshops for mentally, emotionally, or physically disabled persons and certain citizen participation groups. The eligibility of other classes of business for JUA coverage is determined on a class by class basis.

The JUA is specifically prohibited by statute from issuing either product liability coverage or environmental impairment coverage. Further, the JUA cannot issue coverage to any business which is conducted substantially outside the state of Minnesota unless the insurance is required by statute, ordinance, or otherwise required by law. The JUA may reject high risk clients and risks it deems hazardous.

After having been unable to find an insurer willing to write the coverage sought, application may be made to the JUA. A copy of each application is forwarded to the Minnesota Market Assistance Program. MMAP has 30 business days to produce a quote for an applicant before the JUA can extend coverage. Upon receipt of an application, the JUA will make a determination whether the risk falls within a class for which the Association has already been activated to provide assistance. The Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce may publish notices of activation of the JUA for specified new classes of business each week in the State Register. The JUA has the authority to insure classes of business for 180 days from the time the notice is published. A public hearing may be held with each notice of activation in order to receive testimony from a class of business to determine whether statutory requirements for JUA coverage have been met.

The actual time frame for issuing a policy is dependent on several factors including whether:

  • The appropriate policy form has been approved for use by the JUA Board of Directors;
  • A rate schedule has been adopted for that class;
  • The class or particular applicant requires committee or Board review prior to quoting;
  • The 30-day MMAP period has expired and no quote for coverage has been offered;
  • The applicant’s current coverage has expired;
  • The MMAP has reported to the JUA that no market can be found; or
  • The applicant is quoted by MMAP a premium rate ten percent or more in excess of the JUA‘s rates for similar coverage.