Businesses often prepare an inventory of valuable property to simplify the process of filing an insurance claim in the event of a loss. For some reason, papers and records rarely make the list, even though losing these documents could disrupt business operations. Fortunately, insurance is available to cover the unbudgeted and often significant costs of dealing with a loss of business papers and records.
Valuable Papers and Records (VPR) coverage is a type of property insurance that covers the cost to research, replace or restore information that is lost when papers and records are damaged or destroyed. This insurance generally covers papers and records owned by the insured or in the insured’s care, custody and control, and it is often found in property insurance and small business owners’ policies. Large or unique risks may require a separate, stand-alone policy.
Notably, since VPR covers the cost of reproduction, it is not intended to protect items that cannot be replaced or duplicated because they will only be valued at the cost of blank material of substantially identical type. So, if an original Declaration of Independence is lost, the insurer will cover the cost of a blank piece of paper. To ensure maximum protection, irreplaceable items must be listed separately under the policy and possibly appraised so their value can be determined. In some cases, a separate insurance policy may be necessary.
VPR coverage is ideal for most businesses, including:
- law firms
- architects and engineers
- physicians and medical offices
- businesses that regularly produce and rely on important documents, such as files, receipts, invoices, lists, contracts, etc.
When shopping for VPR coverage, it is important to know what the policy does and does not cover. Although definitions may vary, ‘Valuable Papers and Records’ are generally defined to include documents, manuscripts and records that are inscribed, printed or written, including abstracts, books, deeds, drawings, films, maps and mortgages.
VPR policies do not typically cover money or securities. Importantly, once papers and records are reduced to electronic format or saved on some form of electronic media (CDs, hard drives, tapes, disks, etc.), they are generally excluded from coverage under a VPR policy, and need to be insured under an Electronic Data Processing policy.
The cause of the direct physical loss or damage to the papers and records must be a covered loss under the policy. Losses caused by errors in processing or copying, earth movement, war, neglect, nuclear hazard and various events involving water are typically not covered. Since even the broadest policy forms have exclusions, it is important to review them carefully.
Coverage limits should be enough to cover the cost of replacing or reconstructing lost information through research or transcription from other sources. While VPR generally covers items kept at the premises listed on the policy’s declarations, papers and records kept at an unlisted location may be subject to a lower limit (sub-limit) or may be excluded from coverage altogether. Make sure the policy lists all locations where papers and records may be stored.
In addition to VPR insurance, businesses may consider storing papers and records in a facility with the reputation, amenities and expertise needed to offer maximum protection. According to Carlos Diaz of Value Store it, “Not all storage facilities offer a comprehensive approach to this risk. Not all solutions are the same.” Some additional services to look for in a storage facility include:
- Professional and responsive staff
- Physical features/amenities (fire and security system, climate control, etc.)
- Experience in handling and storing similar papers and records
- Comprehensive Solutions (digitizing, e-filing, bulk shredding, etc.)
- Ability to comply with applicable laws (HIPAA, Gramm-Leach-Bliley, etc.)
Be sure to visit the storage facility and check references, and before moving in, confirm coverage by checking the VPR policy. If it has lower limits for papers and records stored off-premises or excludes coverage altogether, the storage facility may need to be added to the list of covered locations.
Though protecting against the loss of papers and records is rarely high on the list of priorities, it should be. Those who underestimate the importance of papers and records may one day recognize they are not just valuable, they are invaluable.
If you would like to learn more about protecting your valuable papers and records, please contact us.
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