What does Inland Marine Insurance mean, and what’s with the funny name?

Inland marine covers loss to either your property or the property of others when it is in your care, custody and control, when the property in question is at a non-permanent location, in transport, temporary storage, or mobile. Property in question does not have to be business property (items owned), but may also be personal (guns, golf clubs, skis, etc.) This type of coverage can also be called a floater.
As for how the terms “inland marine” and “floater” came to be, indulge us in a little story:
Over 300 years ago, a collection of European merchants would meet at a coffee house to discuss their business transactions. Many were in the transatlantic cargo and shipping business, moving sugar cane & rum as well as other commodities around. Pirates were a fact of life, as was bad weather. The merchants, to collectively ease the individual pains when one ship or its cargo was lost, would each pay regular, smaller amounts into a fund, in order to “insure” against loss.
As these merchants expanded this concept, they took the original marine insurance idea and applied it to goods on barges in canals (floater) en-route to their final destination, and to ground-based transportation that worked for the marine merchant companies (inland marine).

The town these merchants were in? London
The name of the coffee house? Lloyd’s

Other events of significant note have created the modern insurance industry. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow (the 1871 Chicago fire) was responsible for an entire new insurance industry, starting with something called dwelling fire coverage, or the fire policy. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake (which actually affected an area from LA to Oregon) called for careful definitions of coverages and causes of loss.

What is “full coverage” with regards to automobile insurance?

Full coverage is NOT a term used by insurance companies or agents, but is a phrase that we run into often that is used by our customers. We may know what you mean by the phrase “full coverage,” but since there is no agreed-upon definition, it is to your advantage to review specific coverages and make sure that you have what you need in your situation. The common usage of the phrase “full coverage” may be to imply that the insured has all of the coverages offered by an insurance company on their policy. This may include but is not limited to:

  • Liability coverage (both bodily injury and property damage – to others)
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (both bodily injury and property damage – covers people in your vehicle and your vehicle when the other driver is at fault)
  • Medical coverage (immediate payment for injuries to the driver and passengers in your car – without determination of fault or negligence)
  • Comprehensive coverage, with deductible (loss due to theft or damage other than collision)
  • Collision coverage, with deductible (damage to your car from collision, while driving or flip-over)
  • Towing and Roadside Assistance coverage
  • Rental Reimbursement coverage
  • You may also consider specific company-only optional coverages such as:
    • Accidental Death coverage
    • Gap protection coverage
    • New Vehicle replacement coverage
    • Accident forgiveness (first, or minor)
    • Deductible reduction (diminishing deductible)
    • Guaranteed renewal
    • Audio System coverage
    • Special/custom equipment coverage
    • Stated value coverage
    • Agreed value coverage

Check with your agent to make sure you do have “Full Coverage,” in the way that you understand it and whenever possible, specify exactly which of the above you are interested in.

What happens if I don’t “schedule” my more expensive belongings?

If you don’t “schedule personal property,” there may be limits on how much coverage you get for “special classifications” of items such as jewelry, watches, silverware, furs, firearms, computers, art and other items or classes. Without Scheduled Personal Property, there are general limits of $1,000 or $2,000. The exact limits of coverage will be shown in Section I of your policy. With a Scheduled Personal Property endorsement, you will typically need to provide both a limit per class desired (blanket), as well as a schedule of individual items with a replacement cost above a certain threshold (scheduled). A scheduled personal property floater usually provides coverage for loss of any type, including accidental loss or “mysterious disappearance.”

What is the difference between Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value (ACV)?

Actual cash value only pays to replace your home or property after subtracting a deduction for depreciation. For a higher premium, you can purchase replacement cost coverage, which pays the actual cost of replacing your home or property at the price of what it would cost to purchase that item new, today. Replacement cost coverage premiums are about 10 percent more than ACV. Replacement cost contents is an “endorsement” you should definitely consider. (Endorsements are “forms” or changes/additions of special coverage to your policy)

How does an umbrella or excess liability work?

If you have assets (property + savings/investments) that are worth more than the liability limits of your homeowner policy, you should consider purchasing an umbrella policy, also known as “excess liability.” Umbrella coverage is called excess because it does not start to pay out until after you have used up the liability insurance in your homeowners or auto policy (depending on the incident). Umbrella liability covers more issues than the other liability policies, including such things a libel and slander. Many companies will require that you have a minimum of $300,000 liability coverage on your home and car before you can purchase an umbrella policy.

What is a blanket limit?

A blanket limit, provided by some companies, on your homeowners insurance, combines the totals available for the individual, normally separate property coverages, into one larger number. Claims can be paid out of the blanket limit, and do not have to be allocated exactly how normal, separate coverages would be. The separate property coverages usually include:

  • The structure of your home (covered at replacement cost, but does not include cost of land)
  • Outlying, non-attached structures on your property
  • Your personal property (possessions)
  • Cost of living expenses if your home suffers a catastrophic loss

In addition to property related coverages, you will also have insurance to cover your liability to others (minimum $100,000) and medical payments to others. These are not contained under a blanket limit.

What is a “Waiver of Subrogation”?

Subrogation means, in a legal sense, one party has the right to “step into the shoes” of another party for the purposes of bringing a claim for damages. Not all types of claims may be subrogated. The most common type that can be subrogated is property damage claims.

Example: Joe is an electrician insured by BIG Insurance Company. He is hired by Amusement Park World to replace light bulbs in the parking lot for the park’s opening in the Spring. Amusement Park World requires Joe to sign a Waiver of Subrogation stating that BIG Insurance Company will not be able to recover (from Amusement Park World) any money paid for damages to Joe’s truck if he hits any of the huge potholes in Amusement Park World’s parking lot (a claim for which they would normally be liable).

A waiver of subrogation clause is placed in a contract to minimize lawsuits and claims among the parties. The result is that the risk of loss is agreed among the parties to lie solely with the insurance company. The risk, once assigned to the insurers (insurance companies) by the parties, is determined to stop there, without allowing the insurer to seek redress (legal cation) from any party who may be “at fault” for the loss/claim. In order to add a Waiver of Subrogation to your insurance policy, you will either need to state the number of parties with whom you have such agreements, or you may purchase a blanket waiver of subrogation that will apply to all entities with whom you have a contract with a waiver of subrogation clause.

Insurers have also begun to refer to the “Waiver of Subrogation” as a “Waiver of Transfer of Rights,” or in its full form, a “Waiver of Transfer of Rights of Recovery Against Others To Us.”

What does workers compensation cover, and do I have to declare payments made to 1099 subcontractors?

As you probably know, the state requires any employer with more than 2 employees to have workers compensation (work comp) insurance. If you have less than 3 employees you may still decide to purchase work comp coverage. Other states may be different.
Workers compensation covers one of two things, either:
– Medical expenses and lost wages for on-the-job injury or illness or disease contracted as a result of employment; or
– If an employee elects not to get coverage under the first part, then workers compensation covers “employers liability” because your employees have the right to sue for on-the-job injury or illness or disease contracted as a result of employment

Important to note with regards to the first part (medical expenses) of workers compensation is that personal health insurance companies have the right to decline coverage for on the job injuries/illness/disease. In the state, sole proprietors and 10+ percent owners of LLCs and Corporations have the right to “affirmative election” of their right to refuse to be covered by their own workers compensation coverage. In some special classifications of work, the state is no longer allowing owners to exclude themselves, or requires a letter from the state specifically allowing an owner to exclude themself.

The state mandated minimum limit is $100,000 per employees per year (policy period). If you’re thinking about workers comp coverage, then you should also know that Workers compensation is annually auditable from your insurance company. That means they will send you documents requesting bookkeeper verification of your payroll and contractor expenses in order to correct your coverage “basis,” and to retroactively bill or credit you accordingly. You are required to respond with certified, accurate figures in a timely manner to these audits as a provision of your insurance coverage.

Auditing of W-2 employee payroll is pretty clear – payroll fully counts, with the sole exception of 10+% owners having the right to opt out from work comp coverage.

For contractors, there are options:
Companies that you hire as contractors (who themselves have more than 2 employees) are responsible for their own work comp – so not your problem, though it is wise of you to retain a certificate of coverage for their work comp in your files.
Sole proprietors (individual people) or single-entity LLCs whom you hire (usually as 1099 individuals) must have one of the following:

– They may provide you with an election to decline coverage form (PDF for Sole Proprietors;   PDF for LLC 10+ percent owners ), which must be notarized and you keep on file. The forms linked in this section are samples in 2010 from the state of New Mexico (look at the bottom of the page on that link for the Special Election forms) – contact the workers compensation administration (look on their website!) in your state for up to date forms.
– They may have their own work comp coverage already. If so, then they need to give you a certificate proving it
– If neither of the above two items apply, then YOUR annual work comp audit will require you to report those contractors AND to pay full value workers compensation on them. In some cases, like if they want to be covered for on the job injury by you, then this may be exactly what and how you want to cover them.

So, if a person who is a contractor working for you, both:
a) Does not have work comp coverage; AND
b) Is an individual and does not want work comp coverage

Then you need to keep the affirmative election for a Sole Proprietor to decline coverage, notarized, on file for them.
The work comp insurance company has the right to verify that you have these forms on file.

Insurance options for multiple film projects and the entertainment industry

We’ve explored the coverage and considerations for single productions. In this installment we’ll take a look at insurance for production companies that make many productions as well as policies for industry related businesses. Read through the following list and descriptions to see how insurance would fit you!

Multiple Projects: DICE/Annual Productions

My favorite acronym in movie insurance is DICE which stands for Documentary, Industrial, Commercial(s) and Educational productions, which are typically made by production companies who need an annual policy because they have multiple productions throughout each year. Though the DICE acronym sounds as if it might be restrictive to the type of productions allowed, the underwriters are increasingly opening up this type of policy to almost all production types. DICE/Annual policies combine the best of both insurance worlds – they cover most of the specialized film-specific “producer’s risk” coverage that was discussed in detail last time with the broader scope of a general business owner’s commercial insurance. As you’ll recall, “producer’s risk” can cover shooting and other miscellaneous equipment, property owned by third parties, wardrobe/props/sets, negative/faulty stock and broad automobile coverage. Stunts and cast coverage can now be “bought back” onto these policies, a very recent addition to the offering. A DICE/Annual policy is rated on the average number of productions throughout a year in combination with factoring in of the budget of the largest average production.

We had discussed short term (less than 30 or 60 days) v. long term single productions, and you’ll recall that it is possible to get very affordable coverage for short term production policies of ten days of principal photography for $500. Typically a DICE/Annual policy is going to start around $1,300+ per year, so for a company that only makes two or three productions of ten or fewer days each, it may be just as easy to purchase a number of short term production policies. A DICE/Annual policy covers you for an entire 365 days of the year and takes into account office and incidental operations, so can be advantageous both financially and logistically. Note that in order to cover productions on a DICE/Annual policy, they must always be declared in advance to your agent.

Multiple Projects: Film Schools

You likely recall the scare tactics from the first article in this series  warning against the dangers of sub-sold, paper based “co-production” arrangements from film schools. While the laws against co-production are still in place, they focus primarily on small producers that may be unwittingly taking advantage of a system. However, with the right insurance agent and policy, it is possible to get good coverage for film schools. There are policies specifically crafted to insure productions that are sanctioned by a film school at a U.S. university and for productions by students enrolled at the school. There are over 50 types of productions eligible for this coverage, but anything outside of the U.S. & Canada or with stunts must be insured as a sole and separate single production.
Multiple Projects: Production Portfolio

This recently added insurance option bridges the gap between DICE/Annual policy that is most appropriate and affordable for groups of smaller budget productions and full-fledged larger budget single productions. Production portfolio offers all of the coverages available to a larger production and offers the discounted advantage of aggregating schedules and budgets. This can be of particular advantage for a series. Production portfolio can handle groups of single project budgets up to $15 million and durations of up to 18 months.

Entertainment Services: Photographers, Videographers & DJs (and Shell Corps too)

This type of policy is specifically geared to the very small or sole proprietor business that covers private functions and/or public events. This insurance package puts together the most often requested coverage of general liability, auto liability & physical damage with equipment coverage, whether owned, rented or borrowed. Closely related to this type of policy is the “shell corp” policy for incorported individuals in the entertainment industry such as actors, directors, producers, writers, cameraman, singers, musicians, composers, radio/TV broadcasters, athletes and even touring entertainers.

Entertainment Services: Studios, including post-production

A Studio type of policy covers recording studios, editing studios, pre-production studios and post-production studios. This provides protection for entities continuously engaged in the business of providing a studio facility to the entertainment industry, for any of the purposed mentioned and their related uses. This can be tailored to fit the needs of small to large studios and coverage for catastrophe is available, including earthquake, wind and flood. Studio policies can have up to $5 million in equipment coverage and $10 million in liability as long as they are based in the U.S.

Entertainment Services: Rental Houses

Provides insurance for companies that supply the entertainment, sports and leisure industries with equipment and/or support services including installation. Again, this is for entities “continuously engaged” in the business of renting equipment such as cameras, lighting, sound, props, sets, wardrobe, trailers and more. They may provide equipment for special events such as props, sets, furnishings and more. This policy is closely related to the Studio policy and has the same high limits of coverage and catastrophe buy back available.

Entertainment Services: Floaters and Equipment Insurance

A floater covers property at an indeterminate number of locations U.S. and worldwide, generally for all risks. There are several types of floaters including personal and commercial equipment and valuable schedules. While entertainment equipment floaters are most common, and can be bought without any other coverage being required, we also handle standalone contractors equipment floaters, and personal articles. Personal articles can be comprised of valuables and collections including jewelry, fine arts and other miscellaneous items. A unique product, the film print floater covers not only film prints, but also certain expenses incurred to reprint, recopy or repair lost or damaged property from original material. Film print floater “covered causes of losses” include exposed film; damaged tape, interpositives and positives; work prints, cutting copies and fine grain prints; transparencies, cels, art work used to create images, and software used to generate computer images. Cut-outs and unused footage are not covered.

Entertainment Services: Events

Events policies are available for all sizes and durations of public and private one time and recurring events, as well as for vendors and exhibitors. Event insurance can cover promoters, theatrical groups, venues and even cancellation. This can include festivals and trade shows as well as long duration events.

Entertainment Services: Commercial Insurance

As we get further down this list, you should begin to see the gap between a “normal” business policy and a “specialized” production policy narrow and begin to disappear. Obviously, production insurance branched out of general business insurance, and we do plenty of insurance policies for all types of businesses in the film industry that don’t do any of the specialized things mentioned above.

The word insurance is derived from the Latin word for security. In the 17th century, the word “insure” became established to mean “providing against loss and damage.” The bottom line is that insurance exists to protect you and your interests. To “indemnify” means to make you “whole” again and that’s what we insurance agents are here to do. Insurance is not about premiums and risk and your answering questions the “right” way, it’s about being protected and secure that you can go back to business without suffering an insurmountable financial loss.

Contact your insurance agent, trust and confide in them and be up front about what could happen and what you want covered. We are here to help you and to act in your best interest. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Make sure you understand your coverages especially what is not covered or what your obligations are. If you can understand some of the available coverages by reading this article, you’ll be ahead of the game in asking questions of and having information to provide your agent. Especially in trying economic times, being fully and properly protected is essential to your future. That’s what we’re here for.

For questions, comments or inquiries, please contact us

Predicting the Future: Types of production insurance & what may not be covered?

Insurance only covers what it says it covers… There’s simply no way to provide for every eventuality.

The dirty little secret of insurance is that there may be an unvoiced disconnect between what you think you’re getting and what you’re really getting. Nobody likes to read the 497 pages of high-level legalese that comprise your policy, especially since everybody knows that there are impossible to read clauses in there for all sorts of things, and it would just be more cause to lose sleep worrying about. When in doubt, ask your agent – it’s what they are there for!

In this article, I’ll provide a look at what the most common types of coverages for film and video production insurance are, as well as outline some of the important exclusions. Some exclusions are offered as “buy backs” that you can add back on to a policy for an additional fee. I’ll give an overview of that the definitions of the coverages are, especially breaking down parts of the often-misunderstood general liability core policy and information on property, inland marine, work comp & specialty coverages. Rather than trying to bore you to death with too much of the pseudo-legalese that is insurance jargon, my hope here is that by understanding the differences and intentions of the coverage available, you will be able to ask more questions about coverages to correctly insure your production.

The important thing to remember is that insurance cannot and does not cover every eventuality or hypothetical situation. It covers the major causes of loss that are typical and can be predicted, and that’s why the insurance company works so hard to make a complicated legal document explaining what is and is not covered. Every claim situation is unique, with extenuating circumstances that can make the clarity of coverage akin to a sludgy mix of dirt and water. I hear occasionally from denied claims “Is there any insurance we could have purchased that would have covered this (odd) situation” and the answer unfortunately is just “No.”

The reality is that insurance companies look at the known and expected or unexpected risks that could happen for your production, and they insure as best as they are able, without exposing themselves to huge unknowns. Insurance companies are not in the business of providing coverage for everything under the sun. And, regardless of what insurance companies cover or say they cover, in the eventuality of a major claim involving a lawsuit, it can come down to who has the better lawyer and can sway the judge or jury to fit a square peg into a round hole.

The best way you can prepare to be covered is to understand as much about the available coverages, and to work with an agent who can explain them to you. An agent cannot tell you if there would be coverage in some hypothetically described incident, but they can tell you what is covered and for how much.

So… how do you cover your production?

Larger productions (budgets over $200,000) often buy package policies that include a number of what are called “Producer’s Risk” coverages in a production package policy and may have general liability limits in excess of $1 million per occurrence with a $1 million aggregate maximum payout per policy period. Large productions tend to factor their liability and producers risk insurance premium at around $15,000 per $1 million of budget, not including work comp. Smaller productions tend to pick and choose the actual coverages (called lines of business) they are most likely to need.

All lines of business extend from a core general liability policy. The state of New Mexico and most municipalities require $1 million general liability minimum limit in order to obtain film permits. While general liability is often explained as “slip and fall” coverage, there is a bit more information that is good to understand.

What is liability, general liability and professional or employers liability?


Liability coverage comes in two parts: injury to people and damage to property. General liability is the risk, due to the negligence of you and the people working with/for you, of damage to other people’s property or bodily injury to others General liability covers you for “operations in progress.” “Others” does not include people working with/for you, so don’t think that your general liability policy will cover you when a light stand collapses during principal photography and breaks a grip’s finger. On-the-job injuries for those who work for you are covered under workers compensation.  General liability is for third parties. That can include bystanders or volunteers, both whom are never covered under workers compensation.

The broad term “General liability” also includes four additional types of liability coverage:

  • Personal & Advertising Injury liability includes slander and libel, invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution and copyright infringement.
  • Products & Completed Operations liability includes goods or products manufactured, sold, handled, distributed or disposed of as well as operations that are completed and therefore no longer in progress.
  • Medical Expense is a quickly and easily reimbursable coverage for relatively minor medical costs if someone is injured due to an accident on your set. General liability stands behind the medical expense limit in the event you are negligent and the expense grows.
  • Fire Legal liability covers damage by fire to premises that you rent. All of these comprise General liability.

Nationwide (US and Canada) general liability coverage for short term, one-time,  productions with budgets less than $1million start at a minimum premium of $500 that covers up to 10 contiguous days of principal photography, and goes up from there.

Liability Exclusions and Buy Backs

Exclusions to general liability can include:

  • intentional injury
  • contractual liability
  • work-related injury
  • copyright
  • liquor
  • aircraft
  • auto
  • watercraft
  • transportation.

Many of these exclusions are available to be bought back. In addition, they may not mean what you think and you should always ask questions of your agent. As an example, liquor liability is excluded only IF you are required to have a liquor license. “Host liquor liability” which is for non-regular, incidental occurrences relating to alcohol, is included on a general liability policy and would likely provide coverage for that accident that occurs at a wrap party, an informal, workers-only private event if you are not required to have a liquor license.

Some specific exclusions that are important for film and video productions to consider buying back are those for:

  • autos
  • equipment
  • stunts
  • pyrotechnics
  • driving (precision, public or private roads, off road, race tracks or courses)
  • animals
  • fights
  • guns, blanks or squibs
  • jumps & falls
  • water
  • boats, aircraft, railroads or  motor craft of any kind; and
  • cast coverages (accident, sickness, essential element, bereavement & extra expense)

Another consideration is location – production operations in the U.S. and Canada are all automatically covered. Other countries will require a specific endorsement, or may not be available for coverage inclusion because of travel, security or international “unstable government” concerns. The underwriters who work with your agent will let you know what additional information is needed in order to consider various coverages

Other Types of Liability

In addition to General liability, there is one more important piece of liability insurance to consider which is automobile liability coverage. As with general liability, this covers bodily injury and property damage to Others, but is considered to be a “hired auto” and non-owned auto” coverage. Hired Auto means any vehicles that you rent, regardless of who drives them (as long as they work for the production). Non-Owned Auto means any vehicles that are not owned by you, but are instead owned by your employees or people working for you. The liability, as before covers “others,” which means anybody or anything that may get hit, but not the vehicle your person is driving or themselves. Hired and Non-Owned Auto liability is one of the most important coverages for liability purposes, because it covers just about everybody, everywhere, driving anything!

The only other liability coverages highly visible on the radar are what is called Film Producer’s Errors & Omissions (E&O), and the Employers Liability portion of a Workers Compensation policy which we’ll get to a bit later. E&O a.k.a. Professional Liability covers contract disputes, especially those over royalties, rights (music & script), copyright and permissions. E&O provides legal defense and damages coverage against those who may come against you for a share of your revenue, claiming that you stole some portion of their work. E&O policies, unlike other policies are often written for a 3 year period at a time, and if they are renewed, provide coverage back to the date the first policy was written. This is called a claims made coverage form, and itself bears another whole article to explain!

Property Coverage

That does it for the most important of the liability coverages. Many of the remaining common coverages for film productions are “property” coverages, with a Producer’s Risk package covering exactly what it sounds like… for covered “causes of loss,” it covers up to the cost (total budget) to re-shoot an entire production if necessary. Producer’s Risk includes a large and important section oddly named “Inland Marine.”

A quick digression on this term… The origins of the insurance industry come from covering trade on the seas, and boat owners pooling a collection of money to cover the inevitable lost cargo due to various risks on or related to the high seas. The original insurance was called ocean marine insurance and held the transporter liable for loss of property during a voyage. That later grew to include before and after the voyage. In the 1800s, before and after voyage grew to include cargo that would get moved onto non-ocean-going vehicles. The first usage of insuring property on a barge was called “inland marine” insurance to distinguish from an ocean going vessel. As other vehicles besides barges grew to include railroad and other “on land” transportation, the same term remained, and now “inland marine” comes to mean any moving or movable property that is not at a specified or permanent location.

An “inland marine” film insurance policy itself has seven types of property coverage:

  • Miscellaneous (rented or borrowed) equipment – Equipment that you pay a fee to borrow
  • Props, Sets and Wardrobe
  • Negative/Film & Faulty Stock (also hard drives & camera equipment functionality)
  • Third Party Property Damage (a.k.a Care, Custody & Control) – this is coverage for real property (e.g. locations) damage – a coverage that is significantly restricted under normal General Liability
  • Extra Expense – These are the extra expenses you incur because you have a covered loss; Expenses that you would not have otherwise normally incurred in the production had the loss not happened, such as additional night stays in a hotel
  • Vehicle Physical Damage – This covers vehicles that you rent or that are driven or owned by employees/workers
  • Animal Talent & Animal Extra Expense

For more detail on the above types of inland marine coverage, see the film insurance page at www.RioGrandeIns.com or email me at sam@riograndeins.com
By far, the most common additional coverages besides general liability that are seen for small productions are auto liability, miscellaneous rented equipment and vehicle physical damage. For the same minimum premium coverages as the above noted small/short term production 10 day policy, auto liability can be added for an additional $322 and $100,000 (replacement cost) of miscellaneous rented equipment can be added for about another $300.

Workers Compensation


Workers compensation coverage (work comp) is important and often at-least-partly misunderstood. The aspects of on-the-job injury or disease contracted as a result of employment are pretty straightforward. Also, most people understand that any employer with more than two employees is required to have work comp in New Mexico. Work comp policies are rated based on total dollar amount of “payroll,” which includes all non-covered contractors as well as all employees. Work comp premium is currently one of the best insurance deals for the money in New Mexico, In 2008, premium ran about $1.89 per $100 of payroll (plus fees & charges), or around 2% of your payroll. By 2014, that had doubled to about $3.65 per $100, but at less than 4% of payroll is still a fantastic deal on workers compensation insurance as compared to states that classify workers on a per diem basis such as California.

The confusion tends to lie in two areas:

  • Contractors & Volunteers
    • Single entity contractors who do not have their own insurance are required to be covered by you. There is a form that a sole proprietor (single entity 1099 contractor) can fill out that declines coverage for themselves and that you can keep on file. However, on a film production set, workers compensation is a very valuable coverage to have. If I were making a film, I would want to pay to make sure that everybody was covered. I would not want to be in the middle of the desert, have somebody break a leg, and not know that it takes just one phone call for an air ambulance helicopter to get my person immediately to safety and get medical care, without it costing me anything.
    • Volunteers are always excluded from coverage on a work comp policy
  • Employers Liability – If a covered worker does not get coverage for their medical expenses, they have the right to sue you. A work comp policy covers your liability as an employer in this case.

Work comp has a minimum limit of $100,000 per employee in the state of New Mexico. That limit is per-year, and a multi-year work comp policy can pay out up to the maximum year after year. All work comp policies are “auditable” which means that after a year is up, or after the policy is cancelled, your bookkeeper is required to swear to an affidavit certifying what your actual total payroll was. If the actual payroll was higher than estimated, you may be invoiced. If the actual payroll is lower than anticipated, you may receive a refund. If you do not respond to the audit, you will be assessed very steep fines and you will not be able to purchase insurance from a normal/standard insurance company again; You will be forced to go to the “assigned risk” pool which carries even more fees and fines.

Work comp coverage requires that an employer be registered, or intend to register with the state unemployment office or department of labor. A federal tax ID number is required to procure a work comp policy, and a state unemployment insurance ID number is asked for. On larger productions, often a payroll service or PEO will charge you for and handle reporting of your work comp insurance. However, you can purchase work comp insurance from any business insurance agent, and may often get a lower rate than a payroll service because independent agents work with many companies.

These and other work comp issues are explained in more detail in our Work Comp category

Other Film Production Specialty Coverages

If you haven’t gone to sleep yet, there are some other specialty coverages, mostly pertaining to the exclusions previously mentioned. As for options that I have not yet mentioned above and that can be important in the film industry, you should at least be aware of the existence of coverages and endorsements for:

  • Owned Equipment Floater – covers equipment that you, the production company, owns, regardless of where it is
  • Additional Insureds – most film policies include “blanket” additional insureds for your rental houses, location owners, police departments and municipalities
  • Waiver of subrogation – the insurance company agrees not to sue someone with whom you have a contractual relationship, even if a loss was their fault
  • Animal Mortality – Death and possible loss of future earnings
  • Excess Liability – often called an umbrella, this can extend your liability coverage by up to an extra $10 million or more.
  • Valuable Papers, Accounts Receivable, Money & Securities
  • Civil Authority
  • Rental Reimbursement
  • Office Contents
  • Rented Furs, Jewelry, Art & Antiques

While beyond the scope of this article, if you have any questions for clarification on the above types of coverage, contact Sam Levy, Film Division Manager at Rio Grande Insurance.

In Conclusion

An insurance agent’s job is to understand your business, assess where the likely possibilities for loss could be, and offer you options to protect you. However, it is your job as an “insured” to analyze likely loss scenarios yourself, and yes, unfortunately, to read your policy and ask questions if you are concerned or do not understand. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer from your insurance agent, then ask to speak to the insurance company or to have an answer from an underwriter or claims specialist. Keep in mind that an insurance agent does not offer legal advice, but is trying to be your financial strategy partner.

When in doubt, ask! No question is stupid when it comes to protecting yourself.

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