Insurance Needs for General Contractors and Subcontractors

By Joseph Lalla, Account Executive

Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc.

Silver Spring, MD

Bringing a construction project to life is a team effort. There’s usually a general contractor, who is responsible for the full management of the project, but there’s also a group of subcontractors, who perform the actual work itself. When it comes to insurance coverages for both parties, many of the same rules apply. It’s often the general contractors who set the pace but it’s the subcontractors who carry the limits. There may also be a variety of stipulations set forth in a contract or certain requirements depending on the state or municipality where the work is being performed. So, what type of insurance coverages should general contractors and subcontractors carry?

INSURANCE FOR GENERAL CONTRACTORS

Let’s start by talking about general contractors. General contractors typically take on a project for its entire lifecycle, start to finish. This includes not only management aspects but also hiring the right teams to perform the work. It’s important for a general contractor to ensure the subcontractors they hire all have proper insurance, including any subcontractors hired by those subcontractors. If they don’t, they could find themselves paying for any number of different lawsuits or claims. But what type of insurance coverage should a general contractor have for themselves?

  • General Liability

This is an essential piece of coverage. A general liability policy protects your business against property damage claims and bodily injury, paying for third-party medical costs and property repairs. Although a subcontractor should have their own general liability policy, in many cases, all parties are likely to be sued in the event of an accident or incident. So, it’s critical for general contractors to have their own policy, in addition to their subcontractors.

  • Commercial Auto

Commercial vehicles are exposed to more risk than personal vehicles, so they require separate auto insurance coverage. These policies provide company’s with liability and physical damage protection for vehicles such as cars, trucks, and vans and tend to have higher coverage limits to account for the additional protection.

  • Workers’ Compensation

Construction is a risky industry, and workers’ compensation is an essential piece of coverage. It helps to offset some of the unavoidable risks your employees face by protecting your business in the event a lawsuit is filed by an injured or ill employee.

  • Umbrella

Many people wonder why their business would need an umbrella policy if they already have general liability. Simply put, depending on the type of job you’re undertaking, sometimes one policy isn’t enough. For example, if you take on a new project where the contract states that you much carry $2 million of general liability, but your policy only covers $1 million, an umbrella policy can provide the extra coverage you need.

  • Commercial Property

This coverage protects your company’s physical business space and assets including tools, computers, signage, furniture, and more. In the event of a fire, broken pipe, storm, theft, or vandalism, a commercial property policy provides protection for your office and its contents.

  • Cyber

Some might think this is an unnecessary coverage when in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Technology has changed the way we do business. Cyber risk is real, and it affects businesses in all industries and of all sizes. Cyber insurance typically covers your business’ liability for a data breach involving sensitive customer information such as credit card numbers, account numbers, drivers’ license numbers, and more.

  • Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)

An astounding 60 percent of all businesses will be sued by an employee at some point in time, yet most don’t have the proper coverage in place help to protect themselves in these situations. That’s where employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) comes into play. EPLI protects your business against employee lawsuits including discrimination, wrongful termination, sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, wage and hour disputes, illegal background checks, pregnancy, and more. It also should be purchased completely separately from your other policies.

  • Bonding

Licensing and permitting are nothing new to general contractors. A variety of different bonds are often required by federal, state, and local municipalities to ensure the services companies are expected to provide are completed according to regulation. There are several different types of bonds that contractors should become knowledgeable about, including:

  • Surety Bonds: An agreement under which one party (the surety) guarantees to another (the owner or oblige) that a third party, the contractor or principal, will perform the duties of a contract in accordance with contract documents or fulfill the obligation according to the agreement.
  • Construction Bonds: An agreement guaranteed by a third party (insurance company or surety) to finalize construction in accordance with the terms of the contract, in the event a contractor fails to perform according to the terms of the contract.
  • Commercial Bonds: Often required by commercial business entities such distributors, suppliers, etc., federal, state, and local municipalities can require various commercial bond obligations. These help to guarantee individual compliance to follow certain rules or legal requirements.

INSURANCE FOR SUBCONTRACTORS

You wouldn’t hire a doctor who didn’t have proper insurance, right? The same goes for general contractors who hire subcontractors to work on their projects. As a general contractor, if you fail to properly vet your subcontractors, you could find yourself financially liable should something go wrong.

Subcontractors need to carry the exact same type of insurance that general contractors do (see our list above) but they also need to ensure their limits are adequate. A good rule of thumb to follow is that a subcontractors’ limits should be comparable to the general contractors’ policy limits.

In addition to those outlines in the section above, there are a few other coverages subcontractors should consider:

  • Pollution

Depending on the nature of your business, pollution insurance may be an important investment. Businesses can often add endorsements to their general liability and/or auto policies, however, obtaining a standalone policy is usually the better option. Pollution insurance helps financially safeguard your company from legal defense fees, clean-up costs, and provides coverage for injuries and medical costs.

  • Errors & Omissions

We all know that mistakes happen. But in the world of construction, errors can often be expensive. Errors & omissions (E&O) insurance protects subcontractors from unintentional work errors, failure to deliver promised services, and instances of professional negligence.

TRANSFER RISK AGREEMENT

All contractors want to limit their liability and control insurance costs at much as possible. A general contractor will often ask subcontractors to have the same insurance coverages as they do, pushing liability down the chain. Risk transfer is what protects the general contractor and places (or transfers) responsibility for claims, losses, and damages on to the subcontractor. But what about when subcontractors hire other subcontractors? Well, the same applies. Subcontractors also need a transfer risk agreement that indemnifies them. When a subcontractor hires another subcontractor, proper risk transfers techniques need to be employed in order to protect the business.

Whether you’re a general contractor searching for a subcontractor or a subcontractor seeking another subcontractor to perform a specific task, it’s important to ensure your business is protected and you have partners you can trust.  Working with a knowledgeable insurance agent who understands the construction industry is also critical in helping you understand what you need, what to require from your subcontractors, and how you can keep your business safe.


Disclaimer: All data, information, and opinions provided on this article, newsletter, or blog is for informational and educational purposes only. While every caution has been taken to provide readers with the most accurate information and honest analysis, please use individual discretion before making any decisions based on the information in this article, newsletter, or blog. Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc. is not responsible if its readers happen to experience loss, injury, or damage resulting from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. This article, newsletter, or blog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans, or strategies of any specific Insurance Carrier, Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc. partner or affiliate.
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6 thoughts on “Insurance Needs for General Contractors and Subcontractors”

  1. Thank you for the list of insurance a general contractor should have. I’ve been looking into hiring a general contractor for a business remodel and I wanted to make sure what all they have coverage for in case something were to happen. I’m also thankful you included some of the insurance a subcontractor should have as well.

  2. I found it interesting that you state that general liability is the most essential type of insurance you need as a contractor. My brother owns a construction company and is looking to get better coverage. I will send him this information so he can find a company that will get him a good rate on contractor insurance.

  3. My aunt is planning to build a commercial complex that she will be renting out and she wants to make sure the project will be a success. It was mentioned here that she should hire the right teams to perform the work and the workers have proper insurance. Moreover, it’s recommended to hire professional commercial contractors for quality work.

  4. I can imagine that it could be really nice for a business to know that they are covered by insurance to help them. It could be really nice for them to be able to get some contractor’s insurance from a professional. It was interesting to learn about how they might need to get pollution insurance.

  5. Thanks for this info! Some of our clients talked about finding a list like this, to make sure of complete coverage for contractors and sub contractors that they hire.

    Mariella
    Best Access Doors

    1. We’re glad you found the information helpful and thank you for reading our article. We have a library of helpful articles on our website which you can access here https://www.georgetownins.com/about-us/blog/ or you can also use the search field near the top of the website to search for any key words on our website. Additionally, you can sign up for our quarterly newsletter here https://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin?v=001DWEiOj7A54hgge2WE1KhpYIspGdCmgIJ6GZJX3in2bzzTBk4IrM68K3NBfpGxXvRY0qenzcjY97IEDVrd2hmkHiWJqz3O4fftv9Q4CrQa8E%3D

      Best regards,
      Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc.

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