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Q: What is professional liability insurance for architects/engineers?

PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY INSURANCE also known as Errors & Omissions, (E&O) or Malpractice insurance. This insurance provides coverage to defend and indemnify the design professional against claims alleging negligent acts, errors or omissions in the performance of professional services (wrongful acts). Wrongful Acts are not limited to defects in plans and specifications. Coverage usually extends broadly to encompass most of the professional services rendered by A/E firms. The policy will pay on behalf of the design professional those damages that the design professional is legally obligated to pay as a result of a wrongful act. The policy deductible usually applies to each claim and may or may not apply to the cost of defense. The policy limit of liability typically includes defense costs, meaning that the limit is eroded and can be exhausted by legal fees and other defense costs. Careful consideration should be made when deciding on an adequate limit of liability.

Policies typically exclude express warranties or guarantees; obligations under worker's compensation laws; claims by employees for employment practices and; the costs to repair/replace faulty workmanship on construction performed by the insured. As with all insurance policies, it is important to read the exclusions to see how they may impact your business.

Asbestos and Pollution liability has been broadly covered, however this coverage can vary greatly from company to company. Exclusions relating to mold exposures are beginning to appear on some new policies or added by endorsement on older policy forms. Coverage is written almost exclusively on a "Claims-Made" form which applies only to wrongful acts which happen, and for which claim is made, while the insurance is in force. Once the policy is canceled or not renewed, all coverage will cease. Few, if any, policies will provide retroactive coverage to the previously uninsured firm. It is therefore advisable to begin a professional liability insurance program as early as practical in one's practice.

Courtesy of www.aepronet.org


Q: What are the main differences between professional liability (PL) and general liability (GL) insurance?

GL coverage is triggered by bodily injury or property damage.

PL coverage is triggered by bodily injury, property damage or economic (consequential) damages.

GL covers damages arising out of an a/e firm's day-to-day operations, excluding professional services.

PL covers damages arising from an a/e firm's professional services.

GL limits are not eroded by defense costs. Defense costs are outside the limits of liability and are unlimited.

PL limits are, typically, eroded by defense costs. In other words, the liability limit covers both defense and indemnity payments.

GL is typically written on an "occurrence basis".

PL is written on a "claims made basis".

GL allows Additional Insureds.

PL does not allow Additional Insureds.

GL may be scheduled under an Umbrella Liability Policy.

PL cannot be scheduled under an Umbrella Liability Policy.


Q: What is "claims made" vs. "occurrence" based insurance?

Most liability policies are written on an "occurrence" policy form. Occurrence policies need only to be in effect on the date that an accident causing damage occurs in order to trigger coverage. A claim asserted against the insured may be brought well after the accident. Coverage would revert back to the policy that was in effect at the time of the accident.

Claims of professional liability against design professionals often result many years after an alleged error is committed making it difficult for insurance companies to evaluate their true exposures and determine the premium necessary to cover the risk. Claims-Made policy forms were introduced whereby the trigger for coverage is the date the claim is made against the insured. Today, virtually all professional liability policies for design professionals are provided on Claims-Made forms. In order to establish coverage, three conditions must be met: 1) a policy must be in place at the time a claim is made and; 2) a "retroactive" or "prior acts" date on the policy must be dated at least as far back as the services, giving rise to the claim, were provided; and notice in the appropriate from must be provided to the insurer within the policy term or during a grace period that might be thirty or sixty days after coverage termination.

The advice of your insurance advisor is essential when reviewing Claims-Made policies with respect to mergers, acquisitions, splits and retirement.

Courtesy of www.aepronet.org


Q: If I need a higher professional liability limit on my practice policy for one project, is that possible?

Yes, generally speaking. For example, if your practice policy limit is $1,000,000 and you sign a contract requiring a $5,000,000 limit, you may purchase a $4,000,000 Specific Additional Limit Endorsement (SALE) for that project in order to meet the requirement. The premium is based on the fees generated on the project compared with the insured firm's fees overall. Minimum premiums run between $1,500 and $2,500 per million. In other words, using the $4,000,000 SALE example above and $1,500 as the minimum premium per million, the minimum SALE premium would be $6,000 or 4 times $1,500. Most, if not all, insurance carriers will not write SALEs on condominium projects. Lastly, these endorsements cannot be renewed endlessly. There is usually a time limit of around 6 years.