While business owners often describe commercial insurance as a necessary evil, the bottom line is that it’s absolutely critical. Like any other industry providing a service to customers, landscaping companies need to protect themselves. Consider, too, that the services being provided are often on someone else’s property, which brings a host of liability complexity. It’s easy to understand why protection is vital to the continued success of your business.
Paul Klitzkie is the general manager for Nature’s Perspective Landscaping in Evanston, Illinois. Klitzkie said that his company has always carried robust insurance, not only because it’s important to the reputation of his firm, but also important for employee safety and ensuring clients are covered if something goes wrong.
“We carry a large amount of coverage for workers' compensation insurance, as well as general liability insurance,” Klitzkie explained. “This is typically a requirement for many municipalities we work with, as well as many homeowners associations or townhomes that we service.”
Klitzkie advises that it’s in the best interest of the client to ask their contractors for a COI (certificate of insurance) prior to doing any work on their property.
“We are happy to provide this any time a client asks. The only downside, of course, is that insurance is expensive, and it makes our pricing a bit higher than our competitors that don’t carry any insurance at all. Unfortunately, in our industry, there are many fly-by-night companies that don’t carry any insurance and they can undercut our prices.”
Without insurance, he says, the risk and liability are extremely high, especially if companies are using power equipment, such as mowers, blowers, edgers, etc.
“We pride ourselves in doing the right thing and making sure we always cover our clients, our employees and our company from any risk or potential exposure, as we all know accidents can and will eventually happen.”
First, who needs tree and landscaping insurance? You do. If you are a landscaper, tree trimmer, lawn care company, landscape designer or lawn irrigation contractor you need coverage. In most states, there are a few types of business insurance that are required in the landscaping industry for both small and large-scale operations.
The Hartford Insurance Company (Hartford) offers guidelines to help landscaping company owners determine what types of insurance are needed to protect their equipment, employees and businesses as a whole.
General liability insurance (GLI) is designed to protect your business from personal injury claims and property damage. GLI is also called business liability insurance or commercial general liability insurance. This type of liability insurance coverage helps protect your business from claims of bodily injury (e.g., trip and fall over a sprinkler head) or property damage (e.g., breaking a customer’s window from a rock kicked up by a mower) that can come up during normal business operations.
Commercial property coverage is used to help protect the property that your company uses, whether owned or rented. Commercial property insurance is critical for business owners, especially when running a home-based business. It helps protect your building, equipment, tools, inventory, furniture and personal property.
Workers’ compensation coverage (also known as workers’ comp) provides benefits to employees who get an injury or illness on the job. Workers’ compensation insurance covers medical care and medical treatment for your employees, replaces lost wages and provides disability benefits. It’s also important to note that workers’ comp includes liability insurance coverage that can help pay for legal costs in the event of a lawsuit.
In addition to the three main types of coverage above, landscapers may also need to consider additional insurance, such as commercial auto insurance for vehicles, herbicide and pesticide application coverage, or snowplow insurance to cover claims of property damage and bodily injury from snowplow operations.
One pitfall that some smaller landscaping contractors should avoid is the urge to save money by including work vehicles on your personal policy. The main reason for acquiring a separate commercial policy, according to an article in Green Industry Pros, is proper titling. Your business’s name, not your own, should be written on the face page of the policy. “For instance, Taylor’s Lawn Care LLC, as opposed to Charlie Taylor. If the business is a sole proprietorship, it should be listed as Charlie Taylor dba Taylor’s Lawn Care.”
Rick Bersnak, the owner of M.F.P. Insurance Agency in Columbus, Ohio, told Green Industry Pros, “If there’s a claim against the company but the policy is for the individual, the claim could be denied. Plus, with a commercial policy, all pre-defined employees, partners and stockholders are also considered insured drivers 24/7, as long as they have permission to use the vehicle for whatever work the vehicle is classified to do.”