Finding the right insurance for your civil engineering firm is an important step in protecting your business and achieving long-term success.
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In your work as a civil engineer, you are responsible for planning and constructing roads, bridges, pipelines, canals, airports, and other structures. Though you may have a specialty such as mechanical, structural, or electrical engineering, the work that you do has the power to impact people from all walks of life whether they are aware of it or not. Therefore, you have an obligation to maintain a standard of work that guarantees their safety. Though you have experienced years of training and may have extensive experience, mistakes are a part of everyday life.
In the event of an accident, you may be held financially liable for any damages. Because of the complex nature of building design and engineering, just one small error can lead to disaster. Even if you’ve performed your job perfectly, a disgruntled individual may still decide to sue your company. Moreover, like all businesses, your company is exposed to a wide variety of liabilities stemming from daily operations. From a client visiting your office getting injured to a natural disaster damaging your office building, the risks are varied and can be financially devastating. In order to safeguard your firm from these risks, consider investing in business insurance.
You should consider purchasing business insurance for your civil engineering firm if:
- You would like to insure your services and practice against claims of poor performance or errors in your work
- You store customer or employee data like Social Security numbers or financial records
- You employ others
- You provide benefits to your employees like health insurance
- You work in an office that you lease or own and store valuable equipment or property in that office
- Clients or vendors visit your office
- Coverage is required or an advantage in bidding on contracts
What insurance coverage do I need as a civil engineer?
Civil engineers are most prone to lawsuits relating to their professional work, and as such, professional liability insurance is one of the most important coverages to obtain. Other insurance types are also important, including general liability insurance, to protect against third-party injury and property damage, as well as commercial property insurance if your firm owns or leases an office. While there are a number of policies to consider, below we list some of the most common business insurance coverages.
Professional Liability Insurance or Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance
As a civil engineer, your work can have a serious impact on the financial viability of a structure, as well as the safety of anyone who uses the structure. Given the complex nature of engineering work, even a small error or miscalculation can end up in financial disaster. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors & omissions insurance, can protect you financially from client lawsuits related to professional performance. Moreover, for engineers, professional liability insurance also covers property damage and bodily injury that results from your professional work or services. This is typically excluded in other professional liability policies.
- Errors: Your firm lands a project to develop a sewage treatment plant. Within the first six months that the plant is open, major flaws are discovered in your design that lead to the plant shutting down multiple times for repairs and modifications.
- Negligence: Your company is hired to design a new local airport. After the airport is up and running, environmentalists discover that there is sewage runoff from the airport damaging nearby wetlands. Your firm is sued for not sufficiently considering the environmental hazards of the airport.
- Performance: You are late in submitting the final designs for a multi-billion dollar bridge project. In order to secure federal funding for the project, the city must hire another engineering firm who is able to submit a design in time.
- Bodily injury and property damage: Your firm was hired to design a transit center, which was recently completed. Two months after the transit center opens, a portion of the roof collapses, injuring multiple people and damaging vehicles and other property. Your firm is found to be at fault for an error in the design of the structural support beams.
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance, also known as commercial general liability insurance, protects your engineering business financially from lawsuits and damages that arise while doing business. Because your employees will likely interact frequently with clients on worksites, general liability is an important coverage to have. It pays for bodily injury and property damage that is unintentionally caused by your business in the course of your business operations.
- Property damage: You are visiting a client site in preparation for an upcoming project, and you carry a ladder into the building. As you are maneuvering the ladder down a narrow hallway, you accidentally knock the ladder into a glass door, shattering it. General liability would cover the damages.
- Bodily injury: A potential client visits your firm to go over the feedback he received from his manager about your designs. He trips over an exposed cable and breaks his arm. He doesn’t want to work with your firm anymore and instead decides to sue for bodily injury.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance, commonly known as workers’ comp, is a form of liability insurance that provides funds for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. Workers’ comp helps to cover medical expenses and lost wages associated with these injuries. With civil engineering and construction projects, where occupational injuries may occur more frequently, workers’ comp can be a critical component to preventing excessive financial burdens on your business.
Workers’ compensation can cover the costs of:
- Funeral expenses
- Disability benefits
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Death benefits
- A portion of lost wages
- Your firm is responsible for overseeing the construction of a new bridge. One of your employees is required to visit the construction site. While he is there, he steps on a rusty nail. He is not vaccinated for tetanus and unaware of the danger he is in. He is rushed to the hospital days later after he starts showing severe symptoms. Workers’ compensation covers the cost of his medical fees, and the time he must take off.
Commercial Property Insurance
Commercial property insurance is meant to protect the investment you’ve made in your business property, including office space, tools, equipment, inventory, and other property that you use to run your business. If a fire destroys your office building or your tools or equipment are stolen from your building—these are all cases where property insurance would cover you for the value of the property that is damaged or destroyed. Commonly covered perils include fire, lightning, explosion, windstorm, hail, theft, and vandalism.
- Buildings: Lightning strikes the roof of the office building you are leasing. The shock destroys electrical wiring that runs through your office. You must pay to repair the damaged wiring.
- Contents: An electrical fire in your building’s mechanical room spreads to your offices and destroys half of your office furniture and equipment.
- Property of others: You rent a 3D printer to create a model for a presentation to an important client. The printer is delivered to the front doorstep of your office, but you fail to bring it inside before a severe storm passes through your area. The printer is soaked and ruined.
Cyber Liability Insurance
Cyber liability insurance covers your business against liability and property losses caused by cyberattacks like hacks, data breaches, denial of service attacks, and viruses. Commercial general liability policies usually exclude coverage for cyber liability, so you may not have coverage for data breaches under your primary general liability policy. As a civil engineer, you deal with vital documents, so it is especially important to guard your business against the negative impact of any technological mishaps.
Cyber liability insurance also covers the costs of:
- Lawsuits against you for lost data
- Notifying customers and business partners about a data breach
- Marketing to restore your reputation
- Lost income
- Lost or damaged electronic data
- A virus infects the computers in your office and you are unable to access software critical to your work. You need to delay many of your high-profile projects, costing your firm hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Business Owner’s Policy
A business owner’s policy, also known as a “BOP,” can cover risks that are common to small business owners. In this type of plan, general liability, business interruption, and property insurance are bundled together to address your needs as a small business owner. A BOP can also help you save money, with lower premiums than buying the individual coverages separately.
Your work as a civil engineer has the power to enhance the lives of those who use your structures, but any errors or omissions you make in your work can lead to financial disaster. Given the highly technical and detailed nature of your work, mistakes are bound to happen. You can take steps to protect your business financially, however, with insurance coverage like professional liability insurance.
Moreover, in the everyday operations of your business, you can be exposed to a myriad of risks beyond the liabilities through your professional work. If a visiting customer injures himself on your property or if a fire destroys your office, you want to be sufficiently protected. Purchasing the right insurance package can help protect you financially from these unfortunate events. With comprehensive business insurance coverage, you can assuage any fears and help you stay focused on your work as a civil engineer.