No New Englander has to be reminded about the amount of snow that fell upon our region last winter. It was unprecedented topping out at more than 7 feet in New Hampshire and nearly 9 feet in Massachusetts. As a contractor this may have presented the opportunity to earn some additional income given so many homeowners and businesses were in desperate need of snow and ice removal. The question is, would your Bedford Contractors Insurance cover you if your business damaged property or injured someone by doing such work?
Changes to Bedford Contractors Insurance regarding snow removal:
Before "Snowmageddon" the number of claims arising from incidental snow and ice removal was relatively low, so some insurance companies may have simply paid these smaller claims. However after last year, the number of claims paid stemming from snow and ice removal increased significantly, so some insurance companies have now decided to specifically exclude coverage for such activity for both new business and those renewing policies.
How do I know if snow removal is excluded from my Bedford Contractors Insurance Policy?
By NH law, insurance companies are required to notify the named insured via mail at the last known address of any coverage changes to the policy. This notice can come separately or in the renewal policy itself. Because of this it is important to pay attention to all documents you receive from your insurance company. If you are still not sure or did not see a specific notice, you should call your insurance agent to find out if your insurance company has added the exclusion.
What is meant by Snow or Ice Operations?
The definition of snow and ice operations will be spelled out in the policy's exclusion notice as it can vary by company; however a sample of a snow and ice operation exclusion from Merchants Insurance Group, a carrier HPM Insurance represents, includes, but is not limited to:
- application of melting or de-icing agents
- property monitoring
- snow blowing and shoveling
- sanding and salting
- removal of, or failure to remove, snow or ice
- snow or ice watch
What can I do to ensure my business is covered for snow and ice removal?
Talk to your insurance professional because even though a carrier may be imposing an exclusion, it is typically because the company was not notified in advance that your business was engaging in such operations. Most insurance companies will provide the option for you to purchase the coverage and hence remove the exclusion. Referring to Merchants, this will cost between $50 and $150 flat annual charge.
Some companies may also allow you to purchase coverage but it will be audit-able at the end of your policy term. Because of this, it is critical that you have payroll records specifying snow removal.
What are some examples of snow and ice removal claims?
As a contractor you need to be aware that workmanship is not covered regardless if you have snow and ice removal coverage or not. You are expected to be able to perform the job hired for so if you damage someone's roof in the process of removing snow, the workmanship exclusion would apply and there would most likely not be coverage. Why even buy insurance then? Here are some scenarios where coverage may apply:
- While standing on a roof, you and your employees fall through due to excessive combined weight resulting in a damaged roof of the customer (not to mention a workers compensation claim).
- You plow a parking lot one hour before people show up to park. In the meantime, it starts to snow again. A man gets out of his car and slips and falls, breaking his ankle and wrist. He sues the owner of the parking lot and your business given you were responsible for snow removal. Even if you have a commercial auto policy covering snow removal, it would most likely NOT respond to this type of claim. This is considered a completed operations claim under the business's general liability.
- While raking a roof, you pull down the building shingle and/or gutter.
Predictions for the winter of 2015 - 2016:
It will snow. Ensure you and your business are protected with not just a Bedford Contractors Insurance policy but the right insurance that can protect the business you have worked so hard to build.
Disclaimer: This material is for informational purposes only. All statements herein are subject to the provisions, exclusions and conditions of an applicable policy or law. For an actual description of all coverages, terms and conditions, refer to the specific insurance policy in question. Coverage will always depend on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, as well as applicable law.