The case of a venture capitalist whose insurance coverage was dropped after his carrier discovered he was a blogger serves as a reminder that media liability policies matter.
The blogger in question, Bill Frezza, got a nasty shock when he called his insurance agent to update his umbrella policy with carrier Ameriprise. After Frezza happened to mention his blog, Menckenism.com, Frezza’s agent called back and told him he had roughly 10 months to find a new insurer.
“Ameriprise told me that if they knew I was a blogger when I signed up for a policy, they would have never given me coverage,” Frezza told his fellow blogger, David Strom. “I guess I should have never volunteered that I was a blogger, but I never thought there would be an issue.”
Unpleasant surprises like Frezza’s wouldn’t happen if producers were more diligent about questioning their clients regarding their web presence and all sources of income, said Mike Mansel with Granite Insurance in Pleasanton, Calif.
Producers who sell umbrella policies like the one Frezza took out “definitely need to ask those questions,” said Mansel, who specializes in media liability coverage and runs the informational website Publiability.com.
This level of attentiveness is even more important for producers working with small businesses. If a company blog generates even a small amount of business or revenue, media liability coverage is essential, Mansel stressed.
“If your blog is entirely personal, then your homeowners and umbrella policy might provide coverage,” he said. “The issue with an umbrella policy is that it’s personal and it excludes—as does all personal insurance—anything that resembles or comes close to resembling a business. It’s not going to do anybody any good if what they’re doing is more than a hobby.”
This may have been the problem with Frezza’s policy, as his blog featured content he wrote as a contributer for Forbes and the Huffington Post.
Jan Constantine, general counsel for The Authors Guild in New York City, said the blog’s “nonfiction” content could have been another issue.
“If you’re blogging on things that are topical, you’re at risk of defaming somebody,” Constantine told Insurance Business. And even if the suit is unfounded or frivolous, “you can get legal fees that would cost six figures.”
Constantine’s advice to producers is to recommend media liability coverage to any client who blogs, regardless of their level of professionalism.
“It doesn’t really matter who you are,” she said. “If you’re out there, you’re at risk. [Media liability coverage] provides peace of mind.”