By Marcelle Dibrell
For small business owners within the pool and spa service industry, there is little that is more important than insurance coverage. We live in an increasingly litigious world with increasingly high standards of care. Those standards necessitate the backing of a good insurance policy.
The water isn’t sanitized, causing sickness. The equipment isn’t grounded or bonded, causing electrocution. The heater isn’t vented, causing carbon monoxide poisoning. A VGB cover isn’t installed, causing entrapment. The gate was left open, ultimately leading to a drowning.
Those are the big ones.
There are the serious damages claims: questionable water chemistry and the plaster deteriorates; forget to turn off the water and the house floods; drain the pool and the shell pops. Let’s not forget the negligence cases. Failure to replace worn parts can lead to damages. And failure to adhere to local codes can lead to any number of disasters.
The list goes on and on.
The fact is that in recent years, the public has become more sophisticated when it comes to assigning culpability. According to Ray Arouesty, senior vice president of Arrow Insurance Service, “What we’re seeing now is a public that is looking to the pool tech as the sole responsible person for the safety and well-being of everything possibly connected around that backyard pool.”
Pat Grignon, vice president for the California Pool Association, agrees. “Generally, the last person to touch it gets the blame. That seems to be the viewpoint in our culture nowadays, especially in California,” Grignon said.
But without solid insurance, any number of claims can put you out of business. Are your general liability limits high enough to cover you in the event of an accident? Are you covered if you spill pool chemicals and damage the deck?
Many policies have a “pollution exclusion” clause that excludes these types of claims, and hazmat coverage applies to hazardous materials clean-up, not necessarily damages. Are you covered if you accidentally hurt yourself at a customer’s pool? If you are a sole proprietor, you don’t have worker’s compensation insurance. If you don’t have medical insurance, any medical expenses will either have to be paid out of pocket, or you must file a claim against your customer’s homeowners insurance.
Are you covered for doing repairs or remodels? Not only do insurance companies define this type of work differently, some provide this as optional coverage, for an extra charge. Are you covered if you damage the very thing that you are working on? Believe it or not, you may not be covered if you accidentally damage what you are working on under the “faulty workmanship” exclusion.
Insurance needs vary, depending on the types of service and repair work that is being done, and you may not need coverage for all of these items. General liability policies also vary: shop carefully for the coverage that is important to you.
In this special issue of Service Industry News, we interviewed some of the major pool and spa insurance providers for answers to some of these questions.
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