We’re digging out of the snow, slush and ice of 2018’s first BLIZZARD aka Bombogenesis aka Bomb Cyclone, and winter is officially here. We’ve got some updates and advice for the many snow plow contractors out there who have been diligently cleaning up our streets and driveways… Before you hook-up your plow and sign up for snow plowing duty, be sure you have the proper insurance coverage. There has been a recent increase in the number of lawsuits defended by Massachusetts insurance carriers on behalf of client’s snow-removal operations. This has led many carriers to revise their coverage requirements or eliminate the coverage offering all-together.
We have compiled a list of the details your insurance carrier will look at when making the decision to grant coverage for snow removal under your auto and liability policy.
Do you have a snow removal contract in place?
- This is the most important piece of information your insurance carrier will want to see.
- Your carrier will want to review a contract that provides details on:
- The property – location, type, etc.
- How often you’ll be on the premises
- How much snow will trigger your services
- Are you also providing any sanding, salting or shoveling
- For larger parking lots and municipalities, a carrier may ask that “hold harmless” and/or “additional insured” language be included in your contract. This means that the property owner (ie. the client) would hold you harmless from a liability standpoint, and make their insurance primary should a snow-removal related claim occur. Unfortunately, not all clients will sign documents with this language because they want you to be responsible for any claims arising from snow removal.
Who are you plowing for?
- Private residences and driveways tend to be most favorable to insurance carriers. This is due to the average size of the area being plowed and a typically lower volume of foot traffic.
- Carriers tend to ask more questions of contractors who plow for town or state municipalities, parking lots, apartment or condo complexes, or other high traffic areas such as hospitals, schools and shopping centers.
Who is doing the plowing?
- Are you using your own employees, hiring temporary workers or subcontracting out labor? Carriers will ask to see receipts and payroll records for rating purposes.
It is important that you are transparent about the work you are performing. The above considerations are all designed to help you get the right coverage to protect you and your business. These are some additional takeaways…
- Have a comprehensive contract in place – and use it! Have an attorney draft a snow removal contract that details the work being performed, applicable fees and hold harmless and additional insured language in your favor.
- Keep notes – logs, photos, video, etc. Your log should include fields for the date and time services started and finished, how much snow was on the ground and the type work performed. We’ve all got phones with awesome cameras, use them and snap a quick picture or video both before and after plowing – while the vehicle is STOPPED! The more details the better.
- Tour the property with the client before it snows. Review and agree upon all areas of the property that will be maintained. Ensure your employees are familiar with the accounts they will be servicing.
- Make sure all employees are trained in proper snow removal practices. Employees should be comfortable operating any vehicles or equipment that are used for snow removal. This post from a plow manufacturer, provides some valuable snow removal best practices.
The availability and cost of insurance coverage is going to vary depending on the type of work you do. If you are not sure if your policy was written to cover snow plowing, or if you are considering taking on snow removal this season, check! If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to consult your insurance contact here at Rogers & Gray or at your own agency.