December 16, 2021
Snow removal contractors share tips on how to mitigate insurance claims
Insurance claims have become an unfortunate, but frequent element of the snow and ice management business. 

During Landscape Ontario’s 2021 Snowposium conference, snow and ice contractors had the opportunity to share defence strategies via a virtual Insurance Claims Town Hall. 

For Pristine Property Maintenance, based in Ajax, Ont., Self-Insured Retention (SIR) is part of their claims mitigation strategy. Using a SIR allows claims ranging from $0 to $50,000 to be handled by the contractor. Claims in the $50,000 to $1 million range are managed by the self-insured group of contractors, and for claims exceeding $1 million, the insurance company steps in. 

“It’s a completely new way of looking at insurance,” said Jon Agg, co-owner of Pristine Property Management. 

To join the group, a contractor must meet certain criteria surrounding equipment maintenance and repair, as well as training and record keeping. 

“A lot of it revolves around record keeping. It’s making sure that you do the right thing, but making sure you can prove it,” said Jim Monk, president of Markham Property Services, which is a member of the SIR group. “There’s the truth, then there’s what you can prove.”

Agg agreed that documentation is an important aspect of a successful defence against a claim. He added that lacklustre records are “easy pickings” for lawyers. 

Paul Lammers, vice president of Garden Grove Landscaping, based in Watertown, Ont., said equipment is also part of documentation, as GPS weather reports and photos can all help form a defence. 

“One thing I learned very quickly is we’re not just snow plow contractors. We’re snow managers,” Lammers said. “Gone are the days of just going out to plow snow. We’re managing snow.”

Pre-season inspections are also important for avoiding accusations of property damage, Lammers explained.  

“They’re key. Before you step on the site, do your preseason site inspections. Make sure someone else’s damages are not your damage,” Lammers said.

Some snow removal companies are opting to remove riskier environments from their client base. Chris Burns, president of Clintar Ottawa, said slip and fall claims have changed where they work. The company now focuses on snow removal for government properties, office buildings and schools rather than retail centres. 

“They’re not as claims happy as retail seems to be. We still do some retail, but we’re just more selective,” Burns said. 

David Amadori, senior vice president of Marsh Canada, an insurance broker and risk advisor company, agreed retail centres, as well as condos and apartment buildings generate more claims. 

“All snow removal work is not created equal from a risk standpoint,” Amadori said. 

He also stressed that documentation is key for a successful defence when facing a slip and fall claim. 

“When it comes to responding to a claim, it’s a war of information. It’s what you can prove,” Amadori said. “Try to over-document. It’s a challenge, but a requirement.” 

Digital logbooks have also proven to be a useful tool for snow management contractors in defence against claims. 

“It’s a little different from a coffee-stained sheet pulled out of the glovebox,” Amadori said.