Maximize Risk Transfer to Your Commercial General Liability Insurance

Roofing contractors face potential liability from numerous aspects of their businesses, including employee-operated company vehicles and equipment; work-related injuries; property and equipment damage; “disappearing” materials; defective work and materials; and a multitude of employment issues, such as wrongful termination claims. All reputable contractors protect themselves and others by purchasing Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance. The scope of available coverage runs from basic policies to wide-ranging “multi-peril” policies, which bundle multiple coverages to address a number of potential risks. A multi-peril policy for roofing contractors may include coverage for damage arising from defective work, operation of vehicles or equipment, worker’s compensation, employment practices and even employee theft.

Insurance simply represents the transfer of risk from the insured to the insurance company. Taking a proactive approach to understanding the insurance you purchase allows you to maximize that risk transfer or at least know where you bear the majority of risk.

The Basics

A CGL insurance policy generally consists of three primary sections:

  • The insuring agreement.
  • The exclusions.
  • The endorsements.

The insuring agreement defines what the policy covers and is generally written quite broadly. Virtually all CGL insurance policies require that such property damage or personal injury result from an “occurrence,” typically defined as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions”. Many of the terms within the insuring agreement are specifically defined for purposes of the policy and require analysis, depending on the claim asserted and the particular coverage implicated.

The exclusions are simply that— claims and/or damages the insurance company will not cover. For example, CGL insurance policies commonly contain exclusions for “Contractual Liability”, defined as “bodily injury or property damage the insured is obligated to pay by reason of the assumption of liability in a contract or agreement”. Since many subcontracts include express indemnification clauses, this can be a major area of concern for the contractor.

Endorsements are documents attached to a policy that amend the terms in some way and can expand or restrict coverage or even modify the definitions. One common misperception is the belief that endorsements are synonymous with exclusions. To the contrary, it is not uncommon for an endorsement to narrow the scope of an exclusion or eliminate an exclusion entirely. Endorsements can be used to tailor a policy to a particular industry or trade, and insurance companies use them to modify standard Insurance Services Office (ISO) policies to comport to their particular philosophy, such as cancellation and non-renewal provisions or requiring binding arbitration to settle coverage disputes. Endorsements are usually identified by description and form number as part of the Declarations Page.

There are common Endorsements that result in additional exclusions. One of particular concern to any contractor is the “Independent Contractors and Subcontractors Limitation”, which provides that claims for bodily injury or property damage caused by independent contractors/subcontractors used by the insured are not covered unless that independent contractor/subcontractor maintains its own insurance coverage with limits equal to the insureds and names the insured as an Additional Insured on its policy.

To limit your personal exposure, it is imperative you do not ignore the Endorsements! It is an important part of your policy and you need to understand the terms.

Duty to Defend Versus Duty to Indemnify

An insurance policy creates two separate and distinct obligations for the insurance company: the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify.

The duty to defend consists of the insurance company’s obligation to hire counsel to defend the insured in response to a claim. That obligation is not
dependent upon the insured’s liability but whether the allegations made by the plaintiff states a claim potentially triggering coverage. The duty to defend
exists even if the claim is groundless, false or fraudulent.

The duty to indemnify is the insurance company’s obligation to pay the successful plaintiff when that claim falls within the scope of the insurance policy.
In the insuring agreement, the insurer promises to “pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ to which this insurance applies.”

It’s often said that the duty to defend is broader than the duty to indemnify. The carrier’s duty to defend exists when the claim potentially triggers overage, while the duty to pay exists only when the insured is obligated to pay damages and the claim falls within the coverage provided by the policy.

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Reduce Cost of Managing Subcontractor Reports While Increasing Transparency

NoteVault's program, One Team. One Report., enables construction companies to invite subcontractors to contribute project documentation to any project within their account at no cost to either the contractor or the subcontractor.

NoteVault’s program, One Team. One Report., enables construction companies to invite subcontractors to contribute project documentation to any project within their account at no cost to either the contractor or the subcontractor.

NoteVault, a provider of mobile reporting solutions, launched a program designed to increase transparency, while reducing administration costs of managing subcontractor reports on large, complicated building or engineering projects. The program One Team. One Report. enables construction companies to invite subcontractors to contribute project documentation to any project within their account at no cost to either the contractor or the subcontractor.

The One Team. One Report. program enables subcontractors to post notes, photos and labor to any project at no cost, no matter how many subcontractor companies are working on the project. Each subcontractor is allocated an individual NoteVault account. NoteVault links the subcontractor project to the construction company project report. This results in a professional daily report, including all subcontractor notes collated for easy reference, delivered every day or on demand. Plus, subcontractors receive their own reports for their work.

A NoteVault Account includes:

  • NoteVault Daily Reporting Platform.
  • Notes! app for Android or iOS.
  • Activities Labor, Materials and Equipment app for Android or iOS.
  • Immediate notification of incidents/accidents through keyword notification.
  • Collaboration with colleagues using the comment feature.
  • Professional­­ human transcription (available for an additional charge).

Contractual Risk Shifting, Workers’ Compensation and You

During the process of negotiating construction contracts, contractors often use certain clauses to shift the risk of loss onto subcontractors who may have less bargaining power. How do they do this? Most commonly through the use of indemnity and waiver of subrogation clauses. While these clauses apply in a variety of situations, they are particularly concerning with regard to workers’ compensation insurance.

All states have mandatory workers’ compensation statutes. These statutes make employers strictly liable for employee injuries on the job. Strict liability means liability without fault. Therefore, an injured employee of a subcontractor can recover damages from the subcontractor’s workers’ compensation carrier even if a third party is 100 percent at fault for the injury.

What Is Subrogation?

Subrogation arises when an innocent party incurs damages attributable to the fault of another. This most commonly applies when an insurance carrier pays an insured loss and subrogates to the rights—or “stands in the shoes”—of the injured party in recovering against the responsible party. This doctrine is based on equitable principles, primarily to prevent the at-fault party from escaping liability. Makes sense, right? Then how does a subcontractor waive subrogation?

Here’s a sample waiver of subrogation provision:
Subcontractor hereby waives all right of recovery against the Contractor, the Owner and their respective officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives with respect to claims covered by insurance obtained pursuant to insurance requirements under this Subcontract. The Subcontractor agrees to cause its Workers’ Compensation, General Liability and Automobile Insurance carrier to waive their rights of subrogation against the Contractor, Owner and their respective officers, directors, employees, agents and representatives.

Here’s an example:
A subcontractor’s employee is injured by the sole negligence of the contractor. The subcontractor’s workers’ compensation carrier pays out statutory damages to the injured employee. Pursuant to the waiver of subrogation clause, the subcontractor and its carrier have no right to recover the losses from the contractor.

What is the practical effect? The subcontractor suffers the consequences of the contractor’s sole negligence. How? The subcontractor’s experience modification rate (EMR) goes up. What else goes up with the EMR? Premiums!

What Is Indemnification?

Indemnification requires one party to pay damages to another, sometimes without regard to who was actually at fault. These types of clauses often include language requiring the subcontractor to “defend and hold harmless” the contractor, which puts the additional burden on the subcontractor of incurring fees and expenses for the contractor’s legal defense. There are generally three types of indemnity clauses: broad, intermediate and limited.

A broad indemnity clause requires the subcontractor to pay loss or damage regardless of who is at fault, even if the damage is caused by the sole negligence of the contractor. This is the most onerous type of indemnity clause because it shifts the entire risk to the subcontractor.

Here’s a sample broad indemnity provision:
Subcontractor shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless the Contractor, Architect and Owner against all liability claims, judgment or demands for damages and expenses, including, but not limited to, reasonable attorneys’ fees, arising from accidents to persons or property arising out of or resulting from the performance of the work.

An intermediate indemnity clause requires the subcontractor to pay loss or damage for its own sole or partial negligence. Some intermediate indemnity provisions require the subcontractor to pay the entire loss or damage while others only require the subcontractor to pay its pro rata share of the loss or damage.

Finally, a limited indemnity clause only requires the subcontractor to pay loss or damage that is the sole responsibility of the subcontractor.

How do indemnity and subrogation interplay? When the subcontract has abroad indemnity clause and a waiver of subrogation clause.

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