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My Worst 3 Minutes as a Business Owner

Hot Tip: Never send your boss a photo of severed fingers lying on a concrete walkway without providing context!

I have been in the contracting business for my entire 30 year career. 21 of them have been spent as a business owner. Hands down, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I can communicate to anyone hiring a person or company to work on their property is this: make sure to get a Certificate of Insurance (COI) from the contractor doing the work.

The work that contractors do is dangerous – we work with power tools, machines, lift heavy things, and work in all weather conditions. Topiarius takes safety very seriously, and we carefully choose subcontractors who do the same. But things break, rocks fall, heavy things are sometimes too heavy, and staff can suffer injuries, even when precautions are taken. This is why, in order to protect our employees, our clients, and our business, Topiarius carries both Liability and Workers’ Compensation insurance. And this insurance coverage is expensive for contractors!

Because it is so expensive, many contractors skimp on insurance. This is bad for them and their employees, but it could be equally bad for you. If an employee is injured while working on your property and the contractor does not have proper coverage, the injured employee can legally sue the homeowner (you) for compensation. 

The good news is that protecting yourself is super simple! All you need to do is ask your contractor for a Certificate of Insurance (COI) and have you named as “An Additional Insured,” listing the name of the property owner (you), as well as the address of the property.

If your contractor hems and haws about getting you a COI, or pulls some dirty folded up paper from their truck’s glove box, DO NOT USE THEM! This is a red flag that they do not have proper coverage.

When clients ask for a COI, I shoot a quick email to our agent with the information, and the client and I each have a proper COI within 24 hours. It is not offensive to ask for a COI – we expect it!

Now, back to the opening of this story and the severed fingers. Thankfully, they did not belong to anyone on Team Topiarius! However, a very careless employee of a subcontractor decided to cut a pipe using a circular saw while holding it in his hand. The saw bound, jumped, and promptly cut more than just the pipe. He was immediately rushed to the hospital.

Imagine my relief when the employee who sent me the photo FINALLY (three minutes of waiting is a LONG time!) let me know the fingers did not belong to a Topiarius employee, and that the injured worker was okay.

The good news is, our client and Topiarius were both protected because we make sure our subcontractors have all of the proper insurance coverage.

Yes, this story is a little gruesome, but for homeowners who don’t take the time to get a COI, the result can be even more painful.

The moral of the story? PLEASE, get a COI from every contractor you hire! 

If you’d like to work with a company that eliminates risk, then let’s talk. Contact us today!

P.S. If you’re craving more (non-gruesome) practical information, check out some of our previous blog posts:

Permits. They’re Worth Asking For

What You Need To Know About Trees in Parkways

Volcano Mulch Piles



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