Most small business owners probably worry about theft, property damage, and fire risks affecting their businesses. While these are common claims for small business owners, perhaps they should be more worried about customer injury, product liability, and reputational damage.

The Hartford analyzed small business claims from more than one million property and liability policies over five years, and found that the costliest claims aren’t always the most common.

For example, the most common claim — burglary and theft — is actually the least expensive claim in The Hartford’s ranking of the 10 costliest claims. While 20% of small business owners were impacted by theft and burglary in the past five years, the claims only cost them, on average, $8,000. That isn’t much when compared to the costliest claim, which averages $50,000 per claim.

Here are the top 10 property and liability claims for small businesses, as well as some tips from The Hartford to prevent experiencing some of these claims.


Burglary and theft: 20% (Percentage of all small business claims)

Cost: $8,000

When hiring employees, conduct background checks. Protect your business by ensuring your building has adequate devices installed to control unauthorized entry, fencing and gates around the building and parking areas, and sufficient exterior and interior lighting.

(Paul Tessier/

Water and freezing damage: 15%

Cost: $17,000

Maintain proper indoor temperature during periods of extremely cold weather, even when away. Make sure your key employees and personnel know the location of the water shut-off valve. In the event of winter weather, clear roofs and overhangs of excessive snow and ice.


Wind and hail damage: 15%

Cost: $26,000

In the event of a storm, know your business property. Treat and maintain trees that can blow over. Protect windows from flying debris by walking the grounds and moving objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds, and anchor any equipment stored outside that could be moved by high winds.


Fire: 10%

Cost: $35,000

Fire claims are ranked in the top five of both the most common and costly claims. The average cost for a fire claim is $35,000, impacting 10% of small business owners in the past five years.

Prevent fire from damaging your business by testing all fire and life safety detection and suppression equipment per local and national fire codes. Protect your employees by establishing or updating your emergency preparedness plan, which should include fire evacuation routes. Mark the routes clearly and drill employees in using them.


Customer slip and fall: 10%

Cost: $20,000


Customer injury and damage: >5%

Cost: $30,000

(Gustavo Frazao/

Product liability: >5%

Cost: $35,000

(Heiko Kueverling/

Struck by object: >5%

Cost: $10,000

(Mike Focus/

Reputational harm: >5%

Cost: $50,000

Though less than 5% of small businesses file claims for reputational harm, it is the costliest claim they face. A claim payout  can run much higher if a lawsuit is involved, and can average more than $75,000 per case to defend and settle. Based on The Hartford’s claims history, 35% of all general liability claims result in a lawsuit.

The internet can cause your business reputational harm. Make sure to have permission to post photos or other content on your website to avoid copyright infringement, and avoid criticizing a competitor publicly online or to customers.

(David Gilder/

Vehicle accident: >5%

Cost: $45,000

Screen employee driving records before allowing them to use their car for business purposes, and do not provide incentives to drivers for speedy deliveries.