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In your work as a land surveyor, you use your knowledge of geometry, trigonometry, engineering, geology, and the law to discover and formally mark legal boundaries. The judgments you render about where one property line ends and another begins will live on well after you or your colleagues have stopped working in the field. A mistake or omission in a legal boundary may end in financial consequences for your client. Buildings and construction projects that are already underway may need to be modified or even torn down. Ultimately, you may be held legally liable for errors in your work, leading to lawsuits that can financially cripple your company.
Protecting yourself against professional risk is critical in land surveying work. There are also a number of other liabilities and risks that you should prepare your company for. From workplace accidents to natural disasters to theft, unexpected and unfortunate events can happen at any time. To better safeguard your company in the event of a disaster or accident, consider a comprehensive business insurance policy. With the right coverages in place, you can provide financial protection for your business and your employees in critical times.
You should consider purchasing business insurance for your business if:
- You would like to insure your services and practice against claims of poor performance or errors in your work
- You store sensitive or confidential employee or customer data
- You employ others and provide benefits like health insurance
- You lease or own your own office building
- You store valuable equipment or property in your office
- Clients or vendors visit your office
What insurance coverage do I need as a land surveyor?
For land surveyors, professional liability insurance is one of the most important coverages to obtain. Other insurance types, including general liability and commercial auto insurance, are also critical to running your business. Below we explain some of the more common business insurance coverages that land surveyors should consider.
Professional Liability Insurance
Errors or omissions in your work can create problems for your clients and lead to lawsuits and claims against your firm. Professional liability insurance, also known as errors & omissions insurance, can protect you from potential client lawsuits stemming from the performance of your professional duties. And, unlike other professional liability policies, professional liability insurance for land surveyors generally covers third-party bodily injury and property damage.
- Errors/Negligence: You survey a plot of land in a residential neighborhood. Based on your work, the land owner decides to build a new home according to your designated property lines. A surveyor hired by a neighbor discovers that you made an error. The homeowner who hired you must modify their renovations to comply with the law. Unhappy with the time and money they just wasted, they sue you for negligence.
- Performance: You are hired by a condominium developer to assess the precise allowable location of a new condominium complex, including the depth of foundation and placement of roads. The developer depends on your work in order to get city approvals for the project, but because of a filing error at your company, you are two weeks late with your report and the developer must hire another surveying firm.
- Property damage: You are hired to assess the proper depth of the foundation for a new apartment building. When the building finally goes up, cracks in the foundation begin to appear, and some of the structural walls begin to shift. It is determined that your assessment recommended a foundation depth that was too shallow to support the weight of the building.
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance is a common coverage for businesses, and this type of insurance protects your company from lawsuits claiming property damage or bodily injury caused by your business or your employees. If you accidentally damage a client’s property on a site visit, or if a client visiting your office injures himself—general liability can protect you from any related claims. As “third-party” insurance, general liability can cover you against claims from third parties, including vendors, customers, or landlords.
- Property damage: You send one of your employees to measure the property boundaries of a local ranch. She sets up her equipment in front of an old shed, but accidentally trips and falls backwards, knocking down one of the shed’s support beams, causing the shed to collapse. The property owner is irate, and he decides to sue you for the money it will cost to repair the shed.
- Bodily injury: One of your clients is visiting your office for a scheduled meeting. Your team has just come back from surveying a new office park site and carelessly left their instruments and tools on the floor of your office lobby. As your client walks into the lobby, he trips over a tripod on the ground, breaking his ankle. He sues your company for bodily injury.
Commercial Property Insurance
If you’re looking to protect your business property from any unfortunate events, a commercial property policy will help you do just that. Commercial property insurance helps protect the value of the physical assets your firm owns or leases if that property is damaged or lost due to accidents or disasters. This type of insurance covers property such as buildings, equipment, inventory, furniture, artwork, and computers. Commonly covered causes of loss include fire, lightening, wind, hail, explosion, and vandalism.
- Buildings: Your office building is damaged when a wildfire breaks out in your town. The damage from the fire renders your office unusable, and you must pay to repair the building, which your commercial property insurance will cover.
- Contents: Your office is broken into and your surveying equipment, including GPS units and robotic total stations, are all stolen. The cost of replacing this equipment is estimated to be $30,000. Your commercial property insurance covers the replacement costs.
Commercial Auto Insurance
Just as you would need to purchase auto insurance for your own personal cars, commercial auto insurance is a must-have for your company-owned or leased vehicles. As a land surveyor, you may often travel to job sites via company car, or your employees may sometimes use their personal vehicles for business purposes. In the event of an accident involving your vehicles, commercial auto insurance can provide financial protection. This type of insurance has both liability and property components. The liability component protects your business if one of your workers is at fault for causing a crash and causes bodily injury or damages someone else’s vehicle or property. The property component of commercial auto insurance protects the value of your vehicle against crashes, theft, and other perils.
- You send one of your surveyors to visit a worksite across town. While she is parking the company car, she accidentally backs into a yellow van, scratching the paint and damaging the headlights. Your commercial auto policy would cover any damages to the van and your company car.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial benefits to employees who suffer work-related illnesses or injuries while employed by your business. In most states, businesses that have employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In exchange for accepting workers’ comp benefits, an injured employee agrees to not sue your business for the injury. Workers’ compensation insurance is no-fault, which means that it pays benefits regardless of whether the employer or employee is at fault for the injury.
Workers’ compensation can cover the costs of:
- Funeral expenses
- Disability benefits
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Death benefits
- A portion of lost wages
- One of your surveyors is on-site at a local mine to survey and map the underground mine’s tunnels. In one of the tunnels, your surveyor nearly trips, but is able to catch himself before he falls. However, he strains his back in the process, reinjuring a torn back muscle. He must receive medical treatment and is unable to perform his job for six weeks. Workers’ comp would cover his medical fees and a portion of his lost wages.
Business Owner’s Policy
A business owner’s policy, also known as a “BOP,” is a special bundling of policies that can provide coverage for risks that are common to small business owners. BOPs combine property, general liability, and business income and extra expense insurance coverages for qualified small businesses. Importantly, a business owner’s policy can help you save money, with lower premiums than buying the individual coverages separately.
No matter how careful you are in your everyday business, unexpected and unfortunate events can and do happen. From workplace accidents to natural disasters, there are some things that you just don’t have any control over as a business owner. Even with things you do believe you can control, like the quality and consistency of your professional work, mistakes do happen. As a land surveyor, your work can have long-standing legal ramifications for the landowners who use your services, as well as any bordering property owners, and you may be held financially liable.
One thing that you can control, however, is your preparedness as a company. Finding the right insurance coverages for your land surveying business can mean the difference between success and failure. Take the time to research exactly what protections you need, and take action in setting up the appropriate financial safeguards for both our company and your employees.