Underpinning contractors are a type of specialty construction contractor. Underpinning is the term applied to a variety of methods used to re-support a structure’s foundation, usually to a deeper bearing depth.
Generally, underpinning is performed if the foundation system for an existing structure is compromised, or if foundation support needs to be transferred to a deeper level to allow work that would otherwise cause foundation movement and damage to the structure. This is common when new buildings are constructed on urban sites adjacent to older buildings.
Underpinning is considered to be a high-risk type of specialty construction. Managing the risk associated with underpinning requires implementing best practices for safety, as well as protecting your business with customized business insurance.
Having the right underpinning contractor insurance protects your business from catastrophic litigation costs after an accident and a large claim. A comprehensive business insurance program designed for underpinning contractors protects you from employee errors, public injuries, property damage, pollution claims, and more.
A local independent insurance agent can help you get the tailored insurance you need.
Why Do You Need Underpinning Contractor Insurance?
Underpinning is the process of modifying an existing foundation system by extending it to a deeper and more stable place that it currently sits on. Underpinning is used to provide vertical support that is not present in a building’s current design.
Methods of underpinning include the construction of footings, stem walls, driven piling, or drilled piers. It may be necessary to strengthen an existing foundation that is failing; when a building’s structure or usage has changed; when the soil supporting a foundation has changed; when the construction of new structures nearby necessitates extending the foundation of older neighboring buildings; to support the addition of another story to a building; or when a natural disaster like an earthquake or a flood has caused a structure to move, creating the need to stabilize the foundation.
Underpinning contractors are very specialized. And they must work with or employ other specialists like structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, and local building regulators in order to ensure that their work does not negatively impact the property being worked on or those that are adjacent to it. An error or weakness in an underpinning project can have devastating consequences for the property owner, adjacent property owners, property tenants, and even the general public or bystanders if there is a significant accident or collapse.
Underpinning contractor employees are constantly exposed to the possibility of serious accidents due to the very nature of their work. The use of heavy equipment, the potential for cave-ins, the exposure to the elements, and the labor-intensive nature of work can all result in property damage, injuries, and serious financial losses. In the course of your work, you can cause damage to buried public utilities, encounter serious worker injuries, and damage third-party property or cause injuries to bystanders or other individuals on the jobsite.
Your valuable property (tools, equipment, escalator parts, etc.) is always at risk as well.
If you want to stay in business after a lawsuit or a significant property loss, you’ve got to have the funds to pay for medical expenses, attorney fees, and repairing or replacing damaged property. While your underpinning contractor insurance can’t prevent accidents and property losses from happening, it can protect you after a loss and help you survive for the long-term.
What Does Underpinning Contractor Liability Insurance cover?
Imagine that you’re responsible for a major building collapse. These kinds of incidents can involve multiple injured parties and result in significant settlements or jury awards. If you were faced with such a situation, how would you pay for your legal fees and the financial payouts to the injured parties?
The first major building block of underpinning contractor insurance is commercial general liability (CGL) insurance. It provides coverage for many of the liability exposures you face as a underpinning contractor. It pays for medical expenses and property damage for third-party injuries and property damage caused by you or your employees.
CGL policies also usually include products-completed operations liability insurance that responds if you’re sued when work that you’ve completed is faulty and causes injuries to others. Completed operations insurance covers a contractor's liability for property damage or injuries to a third party once contracted operations cease (e.g. injuries related to poor or faulty installation, collapse, etc.). Contractors and manufacturers typically purchase additional or separate policies in amounts that have higher limits than what is provided in the CGL policy.
Products-completed operations insurance helps underpinning contractors settle claims while maintaining their financial stability. It can protect against breach of contract and negligence claims, and ensures reasonable compensation for damage or injuries resulting from the your work or your products. It also pays for your legal fees and financial settlements to the injured parties.
You’ll likely need proof of CGL coverage in order to be licensed by your state, as well as in order to submit bids and be chosen for work on any projects.
If a general contractor hires you as a subcontractor, they will likely require that you add them to your liability insurance policy as an additional insured for the duration of the particular job. And if you hire subcontractors to work for you, you’ll want to ask them to add you to their coverage. This ensures that adequate coverage is in place throughout the project regardless of who performs the work.
What Other Insurance Policies Do Underpinning Contractors Need?
Underpinning contractors need a variety of other insurance policies to cover all of their unique risks.
- Workers' compensation insurance: This protects your employees if they are injured on the job, or if they develop a work-related illness. If, for example, an employee’s leg is crushed while working on an underpinning project, workers’ compensation insurance will help pay for the medical care that he or she needs, as well as any income that the employee loses if he or she cannot immediately return to work after the injury.
- Equipment physical damage coverage: The heavy equipment that you use in your underpinning jobs is expensive, and if a crane, backhoe, or some other type of equipment is damaged, it costs a lot to repair or replace it. Equipment physical damage coverage covers the value of the equipment when it is damaged.
- Commercial auto insurance: This covers your owned vehicles and drivers in the event of an accident or other vehicle damage that occurs. Commercial auto insurance provides coverage for property damage and bodily injury liability claims, vehicle damage, and medical bills, as well as any costs related to lawsuits due to auto accidents involving your vehicles.
- Excess liability insurance: Financial payouts for lawsuits often reach well over the $1 million limit on a typical CGL policy. Most of your customers will require you to have more coverage than that, or excess liability coverage in the form of a commercial umbrella policy. Commercial umbrella insurance provides liability limits above and beyond certain other liability policies (CGL, commercial auto) at a more affordable cost than increasing the limits of several individual policies.
- Commercial property insurance: This covers your buildings, workspaces, and all kinds of commercial property including equipment, tools, office furniture, computers, and more if they’re damaged or destroyed by fire, smoke, theft, vandalism, or a weather event.
- Business interruption insurance: This reimburses you for lost income and helps pay for certain ongoing expenses if you are temporarily unable to operate due to a covered loss (fire, weather, vandalism, etc.).
What Is Inland Marine Coverage?
Inland marine insurance protects your equipment, tools, portable computer equipment, and other supplies from theft, loss, or damage while they are in transit to and from worksites.
Consider adding an installation floater to your inland marine coverage, which protects materials left at a jobsite to be installed but are damaged before you can do it. If, for example, you drop off at a jobsite equipment or materials to be used at a later time, but find them vandalized and broken the next morning, an installation floater will likely cover your losses.
A tools and equipment floater can normally be added to your inland marine coverage as well. It covers any leased or owned specialized tools and equipment you use while they’re stored on the construction site. It can offer coverage for tools like hand tools, power tools, contractors’ gear (hard hats, goggles, etc.), shovels, and wheelbarrows. It can also cover equipment like compressors, generators, excavators, backhoes, and other equipment that you use to dig trenches, install pilings or footings, drill piers, and complete your work.
What Are Contractors Bonds and Do You Need them?
You might need a variety of contractors bonds, or surety bonds, depending on the size and scope of the projects that you work on. Bonds are very important for contractors who work on commercial building sites. And you may be required to have certain kinds of bonds in order to secure the required licensing that you need.
Contractors bonds can be essential for finding, securing, and performing work. They are typically used to guarantee some aspect of the bidding process or building project and ensure the project owner that you are fully licensed, insured, and prepared to complete the project as promised.
Every type of bond is unique and tailored to a specific project. It’s likely that you’ll need various types of contractors bonds for most of the jobs that you do.
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How Much Does Underpinning Contractor Insurance Cost?
Underpinning contractor insurance costs will vary depending on the size of your business, the number of employees you have, and how much business property (buildings, tools, and equipment) you have. Because of the high-risk nature of underpinning, underpinning contractor insurance may be more expensive (and more difficult to get) than other types of contractor insurance.
Insuring your business is complex. The types of coverage you need and can qualify for depends on several variables. You may need to find coverage through a specialty insurer who specializes in businesses like yours.
An independent agent who has experience working with underpinning contractors can help you decide the types and amounts of coverage you need for your business. The choices you make will determine your cost of coverage.
Find and Compare Quotes
An independent agent can work with you one-on-one to determine the types and amounts of coverage you need. Your agent can get quotes from multiple insurance companies so you can evaluate the cost and coverage options and make the best choice.
Benefits of an Independent Agent
Independent agents simplify the search process for finding the right underpinning contractor insurance. They’ll walk you through the handpicked policy options and explain the details.
Most importantly, they’ll be there for you when claim time comes. They know the ins and outs of the process and will make sure your claim is handled appropriately.
The Lowdown on Online Quotes
Online quotes can be tempting. They are fast and easy to get — but are they accurate? And are you getting quotes for the right coverage? For business owners, choosing speed over accuracy can cost you.
Online quotes can’t and don’t see the whole picture. They can omit important coverage that will leave you devastated if something unexpected happens. And they can leave out cost-saving opportunities that an agent can help you take advantage of.
Instead of getting an online quote, find an independent insurance agent now, and get one-on-one consultation and affordable options for the best coverage for your underpinning contractor business.
TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin
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