Understanding D&O Insurance: What Does D&O Insurance Not Cover?

Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance is a crucial component of risk management for businesses and organizations. It provides financial protection for directors and officers in the event they face legal claims related to their actions or decisions. While D&O insurance offers extensive coverage, it’s important to understand that there are certain limitations to what it covers. In this article, we will explore what D&O insurance does not cover and shed light on the areas where additional coverage may be necessary.

D&O Insurance
D&O Insurance

Limitations of D&O Insurance

D&O insurance policies typically exclude certain types of claims or situations. These exclusions vary across different policies and insurers, so it is essential to carefully review the specific terms and conditions of each policy. Here are some common areas where D&O insurance may not provide coverage:

Criminal Acts: D&O insurance generally does not cover claims arising from criminal acts committed by directors or officers. This exclusion is in line with the principle that insurance should not indemnify illegal activities.

Fraudulent Acts: Similar to criminal acts, D&O insurance typically excludes coverage for claims related to fraudulent acts or intentional misconduct by directors or officers. The policy focuses on protecting against unintentional errors or omissions rather than intentional wrongdoing.

Bodily Injury or Property Damage: D&O insurance is primarily designed to cover financial losses resulting from claims related to management decisions. It does not typically cover bodily injury or property damage claims, which are more appropriately covered by general liability or property insurance.

Employment Practices Liability

One area where D&O insurance does not provide comprehensive coverage is employment practices liability (EPL). EPL claims arise from disputes between employees and employers, such as allegations of wrongful termination, discrimination, or harassment. While some D&O policies may offer limited coverage for these types of claims, they are often subject to sub-limits or exclusions. To address this gap, businesses may need to consider purchasing a separate standalone EPL insurance policy.

Fines and Penalties

D&O insurance generally does not cover fines and penalties imposed on directors or officers as a result of regulatory actions or legal proceedings. These fines and penalties are considered punitive and are typically not insurable. Directors and officers need to understand that D&O insurance is not a shield against personal accountability for non-compliant or illegal actions.

Prior and Pending Litigation

Most D&O policies have a “prior and pending litigation” exclusion. This means that claims arising from lawsuits that were already in progress before the policy inception or that directors or officers were aware of before purchasing the policy may be excluded. It is crucial to disclose any known claims or circumstances when applying for D&O insurance to ensure appropriate coverage.

Mergers and Acquisitions: D&O insurance policies may have limitations when it comes to coverage for claims arising from mergers, acquisitions, or other significant corporate transactions. Such events can introduce complex legal and financial risks, which may require tailored insurance solutions, such as transactional risk insurance or representations and warranties insurance.

Other Exclusions

Apart from the aforementioned exclusions, there may be additional limitations to coverage under D&O insurance policies. These can include exclusions for claims related to pollution, intellectual property, insolvency, or claims involving related entities or affiliated companies. Directors and officers must work closely with their insurance brokers or advisors to understand the specific exclusions in their policies and identify any gaps that may require additional coverage.


While D&O insurance provides vital protection for directors and officers, it is important to recognize its limitations. Understanding what D&O insurance does not cover is essential for ensuring comprehensive risk management. D&O insurance typically does not cover criminal acts, fraudulent acts, bodily injury or property damage claims, fines, and penalties, prior and pending litigation, and certain claims arising from mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, there may be other exclusions specific to individual policies.

To address the gaps in coverage, businesses should consider obtaining additional insurance policies. For instance, standalone Employment Practices Liability (EPL) insurance can provide coverage for claims related to employee disputes, such as wrongful termination or discrimination. Transactional risk insurance or representations and warranties insurance may be necessary to mitigate risks associated with mergers, acquisitions, or other corporate transactions.

Directors and officers should work closely with insurance brokers or advisors to assess their specific needs and identify any potential exclusions or gaps in coverage. It is crucial to review policy terms and conditions thoroughly and ask questions to ensure a clear understanding of what is covered and what is not. Being aware of the limitations of D&O insurance allows directors and officers to take appropriate measures to mitigate risks and protect themselves and their organizations effectively.

In conclusion, D&O insurance serves as a valuable safeguard for directors and officers, offering financial protection in the face of legal claims. However, it is essential to understand that D&O insurance does not cover all types of claims or situations. By recognizing the limitations and seeking additional coverage when necessary, directors and officers can ensure comprehensive risk management and protect their personal and professional interests.


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