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Risks of Hiring an Uninsured Tree Climber

A tree climber without insurance forces a consumer to absorb a lot of financial liability. A property owner typically hires a tree trimmer for routine pruning and maintenance or in the aftermath of a damaging storm. Consumers should be wary of amateurs with chainsaws and instead hire competent and insured arborists. The risks of hiring an uninsured tree trimmer include taking responsibility for damages to your property and neighboring acreage, as well as injuries to the workers.


Property

A tree trimmer should carry general liability and worker's compensation insurance coverage.

Liability insurance covers the workers against any damages or injuries they cause while working on your property.  However, many arborists either purchase small policies or they do not carry this type of coverage at all, according to the California Association of Tree Trimmers.

Some states do not even require liability insurance, which typically costs $1500 each year, the Northeastern Area-Forest Service reports.  Your best defense is to ask for a copy of the insurance certificate and then contact the insurance carrier for confirmation.

Otherwise, you are liable for any injuries suffered by workers or harm caused to your property and your neighbor's house or assets while your trees are being trimmed, both organizations warn. 


Workers

Contractors carry workers' compensation insurance to protect their employees.  This coverage pays for employees' lost wages and medical and rehabilitative costs if they are hurt while working.

An employer traditionally pays 40 percent of each worker's income toward this protection, the Northeastern Area-Forest Service reports.  Or, if the tree trimmer does not employ anyone but himself, he must obtain a certificate of exemption.

Sometimes, a homeowner policy provides workers' compensation coverage, but this type of policy language usually restricts against catastrophic loss for an uninsured business, says the California Association of Tree Trimmers.  Obtain proof of workers' comp insurance in advance of hiring any tree climber, in addition to asking the carrier about policy limits.

Otherwise, you could be financially responsible for an injured tree climber's medical bills. 


Errors

Errors and omissions insurance protects you in case the arborist fails to adequately perform the work.  This type of coverage also is known as E&O insurance or professional liability coverage.

General liability insurance protects the contractor while he is on the job site, whereas professional coverage safeguards his professional reputation if he is accused of poor workmanship or incomplete work, according to the California Association of Tree Trimmers.  Some contractors post a bond through an agency that ensures return of payment if the company does not fulfill a contract.

However, bonds are rarely used and often only obtained when a client demands this protection, according to the Northeastern Area-Forest Service. 

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