Every spring, you might have tree cutters drive through your neighborhood. A guy might jump out and point out dead trees and then offer a good deal to take them down right away. You might wonder how they can afford to do it so cheaply. In Part Two of our article on how to choose a tree removal service, Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE gives us the answer.
In Part One of our article, we discussed the benefits of hiring an arborist. We also talked about how to find a tree service you can trust and the benefits of talking to a tree service before buying your next house. In Part Two, we’ll discuss the importance of making sure the tree removal company has both general liability insurance and workers’ comp insurance.
Why does a tree removal contractor need proper general liability insurance?
Tree contractors that don’t carry insurance can quote a cheaper price to remove your tree than the insured competition. So, Bob warned us that you need to make sure that the tree contractor is properly insured before letting them work on your tree.
There are two kinds of insurance that you should look for. The first is general liability.
Bob told us, “First, you need to see proof of liability insurance. It’s very easy for a tree to fall the wrong way and hit your car or house, or for a branch to crash through your window or ceiling. But many tree guys don’t carry insurance. Remember, your home insurance policy and umbrella policy will NOT cover you for damages incurred from an uninsured tree cutter you hired.”
Bob went on to talk about his experience. “I would guess that less than 30% of the prospects I give tree removal estimates ask if I’m insured,” he said. “Even worse, only about 10% of those actually check up on it to see if it’s valid. That means that about only 3% of homeowners are checking if tree cutting services are insured or not.”
But is checking if they have insurance enough?
Bob told us, “There are different quality standards of insurance carriers. There are A, B and C carriers. The A carriers are the healthiest insurance companies. If you’re hiring a contractor, then you need to check out the quality of the insurance they have. A C-rated insurance carrier will have cheaper tree-cutting insurance. An A-rated carrier is well capitalized and will be able to pay on big claims. Don’t be a statistic. First, ask for proof of insurance. Then call the insurance company to prove it to yourself.”
Why does the homeowner need to make sure that the company has workers’ compensation coverage?
Bob had an interesting take on this question. By Georgia law, a company isn’t required to have workers’ comp insurance if they have less than three employees. This means that many of the small tree cutting services in Atlanta may not have workers’ comp.
Should you be concerned? If it’s not required by law and all…
Okay, let’s paint a scenario.
You hire a tree guy with the lowest price. They are lower in part because they may not have workers’ comp insurance. You feel good because you got a good deal on cutting your tree down. However, while taking down the tree, there’s a terrible accident. The tree cutter’s assistant is killed.
Here’s what happens next.
“The injured party or the family of the deceased may hire a lawyer, and they go after the employer,” Bob said. Unfortunately, the tree service in our example doesn’t have workers’ comp. Who will pay for the lost wages and medical bills of the deceased assistant, plus pain and suffering? Guess what the lawyer goes after next? The assets of the employer. But what if the employer doesn’t have enough assets to cover a million-dollar claim?
Bob told us, “The lawyer may look to go after the assets of the homeowner.”
We asked Bob if this has happened here in Georgia. “Yes. In Georgia, a case can be made that the homeowner is the employer of last resort.” He then told me about an incident where the homeowner was sued for lost wages since the contractor’s helper died. The poor woman wound up losing her house.
Couldn’t the homeowner fight that case? “Sadly, lawyers tell me that it may cost anywhere from $25k to $50k to defend yourself in a case like this,” Bob said. As you can imagine, that money alone could bankrupt many people. “I always suggest hiring a company that has workers’ compensation insurance. By the way, this is for any kind of contractor you may hire. Please don’t limit this to tree cutters only.”
So, the advice here is to select a tree service that has workers’ compensation coverage. By the way, if you’re willing to take your chances to get a cheaper price, keep this in mind that arborists do a very dangerous job and so have a higher fatality rate than most other professions.
We hope you have found this series on selecting the best arborist and tree removal service in Atlanta to be helpful, and again we want to thank Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE. If you have a question for Bob he can be reached at his website. Remember, we at Atlanta Insurance want you to be educated so that you make good financial decisions for yourself and your family.
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