Garden contractors: growth leads to increasing risk of liability claims

The garden contracting sector has grown exponentially in the past ten years. Around 16% of the Flemish hire a garden contractor. Individuals, municipalities and regions are increasingly wanting greener spaces. But with this rise in demand, the responsibilities of the garden contractor also increase. So the question is: what can protect you against the new risks that come with this growth?

Garden contractors: growth leads to increasing risk of liability claims

There are currently around ten thousand companies operating in the gardening sector, ranging from sole traders to major enterprises. Along with increasing demand for their services, they are confronted with new responsibilities and new risks.

As a partner of the Belgian Federation of Garden contractors (BFG), Vanbreda Risk & Benefits wants to help to solve and optimise the insurance issues that face garden contractors today.

Garden contractors more likely to be held liable

The job of a garden contractor is no longer simply to lay out an attractive garden. Today, for instance, the landscaper’s wealth of activities can also include planning entire projects, erecting outhouses, installing green roofs, digging swimming pools and felling trees.

These increasing responsibilities call for a thorough analysis of what activities are involved. Insurers’ standard civil liability policies for companies need to be supplemented with special terms and conditions to offer the gardening contractor balanced protection that meets his or her expanding role. After all, there is an ever-increasing chance of being held liable.

Examining important risks

Project design

Garden contractors often have to design the entire project. Liability arising from a design fault is not covered in a civil liability policy for companies. So it is necessary to include ‘design’ in the ‘insured activities’ list. In order to receive cover for potential design errors, this has to be expressly specified in the special terms and conditions.

Personal liability

A directors’ and officers’ liability (D&O) policy covers the personal liability of directors and officers for errors and omissions in the day-to-day management of a company. These issues are not covered by a civil liability policy for companies. D&O insurance aims to protect the personal legacy of the director/officer. It not only covers the liability of the director but also legal assistance, both civil and criminal. Here are some examples of cases where this insurance can offer assistance:

  • Criminal prosecution after a fatal work-related accident. The tendency now is to prosecute company directors for any fatal accident on site. For instance, if the court believes that insufficient preventive measures were taken to keep the workplace as safe as possible, the director will be held responsible.
  • Liability with regard to the tax authorities and the National Social Security Office (NSSO).
  • Liability after bankruptcy with insufficient liabilities.

 

Drought

Climate change means that our region is often faced with lengthy droughts. This means that many garden contractors have to replace recently established plants. In many cases, it is the garden contractor who has to pay for this. He or she often gives a one-year warranty on plants. Such a warranty is generally compulsory for public works, but is also more and more common in private landscaping too. There is no specific insurance solution for this as yet, but it is important as a garden contractor to be aware of, as these warranties can give rise to many costs.

Specialised insurance advice for garden contractors

A thorough examination must be made of the activities of the garden contractor, and his/her contracts need to be analysed to ensure optimal protection against potential risks.

The Belgian Federation of Garden contractors, which has local branches throughout Belgium, aims to study, protect and promote the professional interests of the sector in general and to support its members in particular. By concluding a professional partnership with the BFG, we want to play a crucial part in providing insurance advice for garden contractors.

Jurgen Van Haesendonck

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