2014

Professional Liability Insurance for Architects
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Professional Liability Insurance for Architects

As an architect, the buildings you design must meet client specifications and withstand the test of time. You strive for 100 percent perfection—but it only takes one miscalculation on your part to cause a client a costly delay during construction, or worse, a faulty design that could become a safety concern. If you get sued over an error in your work, get ready for a very costly battle—unless you have professional liability insurance.

Also known as"E&O" or"errors and omissions" insurance, professional liability insurance covers your architecture business if one of your clients should allege that you caused them a financial loss.

For example, if a building is constructed to your specifications, but over time becomes subject to water and mold damage, your client could claim that a mistake you made in providing your professional services caused a financial loss. If you face a lawsuit—even if you don't think you're actually responsible for the loss—you have to pay for lawyers and take time out from work to battle the suit.

Up to policy limits, professional liability insurance pays for your legal defense, the time you spend in court instead of working, and other expenses as specified by your policy. If you're legally obligated to compensate your client for the loss or other damages, your E&O insurance will pay that award as well, according to the provisions in your policy.

What You Need to Know

E&O insurance policies are typically issued in increments of $1 million and have per-claim deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $25,000. These types of policies are issued on a"claims-made" basis, meaning that coverage must be in force both at the time of the alleged incident and at the time the claim is made, so it's wise to keep your policy in force even after you've completed a project.

Because your client may require that you carry professional liability coverage, read the fine print in your contract to be sure you have the amount specified.

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Professional Liability Insurance Tips

  • E&O policies are generally provided on a"claims-made" basis. This means that to be covered, a claim must meet three criteria: the alleged error or omission must be covered by the policy, it must have happened while the policy was in force, and the claim must be made while the policy is still active. In other words, to be covered for work during a specific project, you must continue your coverage long after that project is complete.
  • E&O insurance won't cover you if you're sued for something like stealing a client's customer away. For these and other non-covered scenarios, many architects have contracts that outline conflict-resolution procedures and define each party's rights.
  • The chance of getting sued often has less to do with the quality of your work than with your clients' temperament and expectations. If your client relationship goes sour for any reason, you could be accused of negligence even if you didn't make any mistakes. That's why it's so important to carry professional liability insurance, even if you've never been sued.