Insurance for Landscape Design Business

Mike LarkinOctober 15, 2012

Currently I am doing Landcape Design, mostly for do it your self home owners. For years I have carried a general liablity policy, probably a better fit for a landscape contractor. It covered when someone was hurt while on the job or if I cause damage to someone property. I am rethinking coverage and came across and error and omission policy. The premiums are very high - I do this part time. I am not drawing plans that involve regrading, large retainig walls that could fail, new construction of decks,etc just making yards look nice with the correct plants. I am not a cerified architect either, thus making E&O coverage more costly.

Does anyone else have some type of general liablity that they have used that would offer some form of protection - if you are doing just design work.

Thanks Mike

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I do design and consultation only and have never carried any business-related insurance. I do have a clause in my contracts that more or less denies any liability for any designs as a abundance of caution - afterall they are only pictures on paper. And like you, I provide no detailed construction drawings, only conceptual plans and planting plans. As far as I can determine, all the liability is in the hands of whatever contractor the homeowner chooses to engage. I know my go-to guy carries all the bonding and liability coverage he might ever need but has never yet used.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 3:04PM
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Mike Larkin

Thanks gardengal, I like your approach. I think your contract language is good way to handle this. We have no control over what the client does with the plans and I cant see situations where we as designers would have liability.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 11:17AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I did design and consultation work for years and never considered the need for insurance. I did, however, make sure that any contractors I put to work on a job were well insured.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 10:33AM
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I carry $1 million in errors and omissions coverage. It costs me around $1,000 a year which is great for peace of mind. There's an additional rider that covers me for project management as well.

I held off on E&O insurance for years until I sat down with a great attorney to revise my design and PM contracts. I was looking for ways to have my contract keep me from being liable for stuff and he said "you can't just write away your liabilities and responsibilities." Given that he's a pretty aggressive litigator, it put the fear of god in me.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 1:45PM
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I cannot for the life of me contemplate any design situation - given my typical client base - where I could possibly have even E&O liability approaching $1 million!

Perhaps marcinde's business targets a much higher-end client and his designs are waaaay more complex than the average garden design plan I crank out, but I simply cannot imagine anything I put down on paper would have that type of potential repercussion. Frankly, I'd be far more inclined to sue my clients (for non-payment) than they'd ever be inclined to sue me.

Having said that, it may be prudent to check with whatever professional organization is present in your locale to see what they suggest or what might be required. One of the (many) reasons I opted for a design/consult-only business was that it was not a taxable service (eliminating that bookeeping headache) and that I was not required to have bonding or insurance. YMMV.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 4:01PM
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gardengal, I do a really wide array of projects. The planting designs I do, sure - I really don't worry about liability. But I do a lot of decks and screen porches, retaining walls, water features (one flooded finished basement in a nice area is $250k+), and pretty much everything else outside the home. Plus, I'm getting into more commercial design as well.

I'm design and consulting as well, and that is what made me realize that I really do need the coverage. If I were building my designs, I'd catch an issue on the drawing and make a change in the field. I would hope the contractor would do so, but I sleep better at night knowing that I have some help if they don't.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:37AM
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