Landscapers across Massachusetts are scrambling to find snow removal insurance. Unfortunately, the options they have available to them are limited.
Why is it so hard to find snow and ice removal insurance? It wasn’t always this way. Massachusetts slip and fall laws used to differentiate between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations of ice and snow. In 2002, Emanuel Papadopoulos of Peabody, slipped and fell in a Target parking lot fracturing his pelvis. The parking lot had been professionally plowed that day. The judge ruled in favor of Target and the plow company since the ice had formed “naturally” after snow had melted and refroze. However, this ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2010. The new ruling found that the property owner have a duty to keep the property “reasonably safe”. This basically threw out the old distinction between naturally and unnaturally occurring ice. This has now opened the flood gates for slip and fall insurance claims. For this reason very few insurance carriers want to take on this risk.
How do I get snow and ice removal insurance? The most cost effective way is to find a carrier who will endorse it onto your general liability policy. Insurance carriers are more likely to endorse this if they write multiple lines of insurance with you. The other option would be to write a monoline policy exclusively for snow and ice removal. The premiums for these policies depend on the location(s) you will be servicing. For instance, a shopping mall would require a much larger premium than an office building due to the number of visitors and, therefore, increased risk of a slip and fall claims. The premiums on retail parking lot snow and ice removal can typically equal or exceed what a small company could earn during an average winter.
The new snow and ice removal laws need to be changed. It is harmful to small businesses. A seasonal company like a landscaper, with only a handful of winter clients to plow cannot afford to pay the premiums these insurance companies are asking for. And the insurance companies cannot lower premiums because the risk is so high for slip and fall claims. This leaves us with only the large snow and ice removal companies getting all of the work. This is not only harmful to small businesses but this will also diminish competition and allow the larger companies to increase prices.