Trees are a vital part of your landscape. Not only do they add beauty to your property, but they can provide shade to your home to increase your cooling efficiency, protect your property from high winds and damaging storms, and prevent erosion.
And while mature trees may need less maintenance than newly planted trees, at some point they may need work — whether it’s routine maintenance like pruning or crown cleaning and reduction, or more specialized, like disease treatment or cabling and bracing. Unless you’re trained in this area, you’ll need to call in a professional. And to protect yourself and your property, you’ll need to ensure those you call on are properly trained and verify they’re insured.
Tree Care is Dangerous Work
You may not realize it, but tree care can be extremely dangerous work, particularly when you factor in managing tools at extreme heights and near obstacles like homes and power lines. This line of work has a fatal incident rate about six to eight times higher than the all-industry average, depending on how professions are categorized, according to TCI Magazine.
Factoring in risks, it’s important to ensure your tree care professionals are, in fact, skilled professionals and not just someone with a lot of confidence who invested in a chainsaw and a ladder. Even the smallest jobs have the potential for serious injury or damage to your home, vehicle, surrounding property, and utilities.
When you hire a company to work on your tree in any capacity, make sure they have insurance. Not only are you ensuring you don’t contribute to a dangerous accident, you’re protecting yourself if an accident does happen on your property.
But what should you look for?
Make Sure Your Contractor Has Valid Insurance to Protect Yourself from Litigation
First and foremost, ask for a Certificate of Insurance (COI) to protect you in case of an incident on your property. This proves liability insurance coverage, which typically covers bodily injury to people outside of the business and physical damage to property, along with workers’ compensation insurance.
“There are often harsh legal penalties for businesses that don’t carry workers’ comp,” according to SBInsure. “But, aside from that, workers’ comp insurance can also help your business, as it makes sure staff get adequate medical treatment that help them return to work fit and healthy.”
It’s important to note that if a company doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, they are legally responsible for injuries; however, the homeowner also could be liable for a host of damages, depending on the situation.
If the company doesn’t have insurance or can’t provide a COI, chances are you should not do business with them.
If the company provides a COI, check the following:
- The name of the insurance company and company or individual you’re hiring, which will be listed as the “Producer” and “Insured,” respectively.
- Your name and address should be listed as “Certificate Holder.”
- Check the dates of coverage, including the effective date, expiration date, and the issuance date. The issuance date should be less than 30 days and the policy should not expire until after your project is complete.
- Review the limits of coverage. If you’re not satisfied with the coverage, the contractor can request an increase based on what is appropriate for the job or project being completed.
Call the insurance company to verify its validity. This may seem cynical, but the certificate means nothing if it’s out of date, or worse — doesn’t really exist. Insurance companies are happy to provide this document as requested.
Other questions to ask:
- Will my property be fully covered?
- Do you have any current claims that could affect your coverage limits?
- Am I responsible for any injuries or damages to your company’s workers or property?
- Who will cover any damages to public utilities or roads?
- Do you have other accreditations and licenses?
- Are your employees certified?
- Do you have references?
Should I Look for an Arborist or Landscaper?
When it comes to caring for your trees, landscaping companies may not have the equipment or expertise to handle high-risk situations. Arborists work with industry associations to stay apprised of the industry and are committed to maintaining high safety standards, certifications, and licenses associated with tree work.