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Why You Should Use Hold Harmless ...

We frequently receive inquiries from contractors pertaining to contractual insurance requirements and how to obtain “additional insured” status on a policy.  We’ve learned throughout the years that the answer is not always the same.  Insurance forms read differently, and then can change as soon as you think you know them.

However the forms may read, there are some “best practices” you should adhere to when hiring subcontractors, or when you are accepting a job as a subcontractor:

Use a Contract

If you hire subcontractors, you already require them to sign a hold harmless agreement to protect yourself from covered losses arising out of their ongoing and completed operations.  These contracts should contain properly worded indemnification and additional insured requirements for the subcontractor’s insurance to recognize you as an insured, and to cover you.

Many insurers use additional insured forms that contain language similar to, “additional insured status when required by written contract or agreement.”  Some go as far as requiring an “executed” contract prior to the commencement of work.  It’s imperative for general contractors to have a signed contract before a subcontractor begins work in order to obtain additional insured status.

See our article “Recommended Procedures & Documentation When Hiring Subcontractors” for more information on contractual insurance requirements.

Read the Contract and Understand What You are Agreeing to

If you are a subcontractor, read the contract the general contractor presents to you.  Understand what you are promising when you agree to the terms and conditions of the contract.  We have seen contracts ask for more than what standard insurance forms will actually do.

If you are a subcontractor of a subcontractor, be sure to obtain and read the prime contract between the general contractor and the subcontractor who is hiring you.  You may be agreeing to the terms and conditions in that contract as well.

Sign the Contract

Some courts have determined that subcontractors “agreed” to provide the contractual additional insured requirement by beginning work.  However, when the subcontractor caused or contributed to a loss on the job, their insurance did not respond to recognize the general contractor as an additional insured because of the absence of a previously signed (relative to the claim) or “executed” contract.  This left the general contractor exposed to cover the cost of defense and indemnification with their own resources, then sued the subcontractor for a “breach of contract.”

 

Mason & Mason is an insurance agency.  We are not members of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the information above is for informational purposes only.  We strongly suggest you consult an attorney before making any decision on the wording and/or use of legal contract documents.


Watch Your Step! Don’t Slip & ...

Slips and falls are one of the most frequent causes of accidents, both on and off the job. Each year in the United States, more than 300,000 people suffer disabling injuries from falls. Slips and falls can be fatal as well; they rank second only to automobile accidents, causing nearly 12,000 deaths a year. To avoid getting hurt from falls, avoid rushing and remember the following:

Watch Where You Walk

Be aware of where you are walking. Look down continuously for spilled liquids, materials, equipment, changing surface levels, etc. Make sure the area is well-lit or use a flashlight if lighting is poor.

Wear Proper Footwear

Make sure your shoes are in good shape and correct for the job. Discard worn-out shoes with smooth soles and other defects. If conditions are wet and slippery, wear non-slip shoes or boots. Avoid footwear with leather soles which have poor floor traction–especially on smooth surfaces.

Check Floor Openings

Avoid unguarded floor openings. On construction sites, when covers are placed over floor openings, avoid walking on the cover unless it is absolutely secure and will not move or collapse. Never jump over pits or other openings.

Be Careful On Stairs

Do not run when going up or down stairs. Check to see that stair treads are in good shape, with no obstructions on the steps. Always use the hand railings that are provided. Avoid carrying large loads when going up or down stairs and ensure that stairs are well-lit.

Use Ladders Correctly

Never use broken or defective ladders. Set the angle of the ladder at the proper four-to-one ratio (height to width angle). Make sure the ladder is on solid footing and will not move when you climb upon it. Whenever possible, tie your ladder to the structure to improve stability. Anchorage at the bottom is also a good idea. Never stand on the top two steps of a step ladder.

Make Sure Scaffolding Is Safe To Use

When working on scaffolding, make sure it is secure, stable and properly set-up. Do not work on scaffolding if guard rails are missing or the base is unstable. Check to see that planks are in good shape and not cracked. Tall scaffolds should be tied into a structure to increase stability.

Don’t Jump Out Of Vehicles

Never jump from equipment or vehicles. Use the handrail and steps provided, remembering the “three point rule.” Avoid stepping onto loose rocks, slippery surfaces, oil spills, etc.


Internet Defamation – Words Have ...

Social media is a great way build your business’s reputation. Interactivity between merchants and customers has helped many unheard of boutique shops become Internet darlings with maxed out sales. However, fostering social media on your website or participating in social media on another’s blog can be dangerous.

The danger is Internet Defamation.

What is Internet Defamation?
Defamation is when a person makes false statements about your business such as stating that you use discriminatory practices in hiring, or you use dishonest practices dealing with your customers. Making statements like these and putting them on the Internet for anyone and everyone to see is libel. There are important elements for a statement on the Internet to earn the label of a defamatory.

  • The person who published the statement was not the person defamed
  • The statement is a false statement of fact
  • The false statement was understood to be:
    • About the plaintiff and
    • Designed to harm the reputation of the plaintiff
  • Should the plaintiff be a public figure he or she must also prove malice.

Businesses with a presence on the Internet, especially if the Internet site encourages comments and dialogs among visitors need to be especially vigilant monitoring about what other users post on their site. There is a powerful federal law known as Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230). This federal law is part of the Communication Decency Act of 1996. This law has precedence over any local or state laws and protects owners of interactive computer service providers from claims of defamation from postings made through reader’s comments and entries of guest bloggers. In other words, this law gives you, as a web host, protection from claims made from hosting information written by third parties.

Then why should a business watch what third parties say on their site? This is a valid question. You want your site and blogs to promote your brand, not distract from that purpose by allowing a “flame war” on your sites.

Allowing an offensive statement to stay on your site — even when written by a third-party — is off-putting to potential clients and customers.

Imagine: your own employee gets baited into a discussion and tries to defend your business. He then engages in Internet Defamation costing you customers and even cash if a lawsuit against you goes to court. Words have power.

Insurance for Internet Defamation
Even though the Section 230 language and the truth – if what you said is true it is not libel – help keep the threat of you being successfully sued for Internet Defamation lower, it is a risk that your insurance advisor can cover through your BOP policy, your General Liability Insurance, or an Umbrella Policy.

Talk with one of our risk specialists to understand your exposures and the best way to cover them with insurance.