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Liability Insurance for non-commercial plowing

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by bobingardner, Oct 24, 2004.

  1. bobingardner

    bobingardner Senior Member
    Messages: 136

    Several elderly neighbors have asked if I'd be available to plow their driveways and I'd like to do it at no charge but am concerned about liability. Does anyone have an opinion on how much and what type of insurance I should get. Does it make a difference that they won't be paying for the service or am I still putting myself at risk?

  2. qualitylawncare

    qualitylawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 501

    Please don't ask us for help when your going to be plowing for free. Free and cheap plowing takes food off my table. :rolleyes:

    Anyway, liability and commercial auto insurance will run you anywhere from $4,000-$10,000 per year depending on how many drivers will be in your truck.
  3. bobshm

    bobshm Junior Member
    Messages: 17

    you are nuts ! It doesn't matter how sweet they are now. Wait until one of them slips, falls, and breaks a hip. Or worse, comes out to "help you" and walks behind the truck at night while you are backing up. If you want to help them and save yourself, give them the money to hire a plow contractor. :waving:
  4. bobingardner

    bobingardner Senior Member
    Messages: 136

    I didn't think anyone would be offended by this. I'm not looking to lowball or take food off your table. I'm just looking to help a few neighbors on fixed incomes. Even if I was plowing commercially I wouldn't charge these people. Thanks for the feedback.
  5. crashz

    crashz Senior Member
    Messages: 256

    Bob -

    I don't beleive you need any. Because you are not responsible for clearing the driveways, as you are not paid by them. Make them understand this and also make sure they don't give you any "gifts" as a reward. Gifts could be easily construed as payment for services.

    I could be wrong about this though. People are sueing each other for even more ridiculous things each day. Check with your auto insurance company.


    I realize your livelyhood relies on plowing in the winter as I had a few years ago. However, Bob lives in Gardner, MA which is a little hole in the wall town, with very few people who can afford to a have a decent contactor for snow and ice removal. I lived there for a year back in college (commuted to UMass Lowell from there!) and there isn't much activity there. I'm sure that these elderly people would be forced to try and clear the driveway themselves if it wasn't for Bob.
  6. Trails End Lawn

    Trails End Lawn Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    i agree

    I must say i agree with crash on both accounts. Atleast in Iowa if you are not responsible for clearing the drive or walks the liability does not rest on you. Its the same principle as shoveling some of your neighbors sidewalk you are not liable if someone falls on it he is. First and formost its the homeowners responsibility to make sure the grounds are safe.

    Second i praise him for wanting to do something for free. Like crash said these people cant afford to pay us to do it. Lets face it at around here $60.00 hour is a large chunk out of someones budget who is on a tight or fixed income. I understand were everyone gets upset with lowballers but if you cant do something nice for people when they are in a tough situation than you need to take a look at yourself as a person.

    Carry on Bob.
  7. The Boss

    The Boss 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,099

    Bob, I agree witht the fact that you do not need insurance. If you are not under a contract and doing them just to be a good neighbor, you are not responsible. I too do a couple of old people's walks for free. They've been neighbors of my grandparents for years. You've got a good heart. :nod: :waving:
  8. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Check our "Good Samaritan" laws for your state. You should be OK, but just be aware that "anyone can be sued at any time for any thing". I heard of something (I think it was in Canada) where the lawyer sued everybody he could think of, even if they had nothing whatever to do with the action at issue. The purpose was to have the judge rule each person named as potentially liable or not. But each person had to hire a lawyer, even if they clearly had nothing to do with it.
  9. rclay11541

    rclay11541 Member
    Messages: 56

    Advice from a newenglander

    You do need insurance or have them sign somthing which says,,,quote from my contract,,,,"By signing below i herby certify that i agree with the statements above and understand that all personal injury liablility is that of the homeowner. The company/contractor engaging in said work is herby released of any and all liability in concerns with personal injury derived from any winter acumulation either before after or during work."

    This isn't an exact quote doing it from memory.

    If money exchanges hands your are reasponsible for: Personal injury liablility, auto accident liability, structural liability.

    If money dosen't exchange hands your are reasponsiblie for:personal injury liablility, auto accident liability, structural liability.

    This is the law in the State of NJ


    ANR Landscaping LLP
    Somerset County NJ
  10. crazymike

    crazymike Senior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 639

    Although I'm new at plowing, I've ran my own business before and know what it takes to put food on the table.

    However, plowing old peoples driveways is far from lowballing. They don't have the money to plow their driveway, he's taking time out of his day and wear on his equipment to do something nice.

    It's not taking money out of your pocket if it wouldn't be there in the first place. And he's not doing it to make money.

    I guess we should jump all over Goodwill too. Taking money away from the Gap, etc... by providing cheap clothing to less fortunate.

    (sorry if I missed the sarcasm)
  11. Young Pup

    Young Pup PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,522

    IMO it is hard to find good neighbors to watch out for each other. I commend you and think you are doing the right thing. Here a neighbor of mine does the whole city block sidewalk with a snowblower while the other does the walks up to the homes with a shovel. Last year I dropped the plow in the alley. It is called taken care of each other and watching other peoples backs. What comes around goes around.
  12. Hawkc01

    Hawkc01 Member
    Messages: 49

    Can't keep quiet on this one.

    When I moved to my current residence, a 1920s cabin resort in southern Minnesota, it wasn't difficult to fit in with the natives. I spent the first three hours of my first weekend plowing over 20 driveways with my ATV. Well, 3 years later the Phantom 4-Wheeler is still going at it everytime it snows...for free. Young and old, I do them all. Nobody can say they know all of the people in my neighborhood...except for me. What happened later was a and unexpected blessing...

    next door...75 year old WII vet sold me his home and land for 50K under value because he said I've been the most helpful person he has lived next to in 45 years. I also cut his and 5 others lawns for free!

    2 houses down purchased a 10K HVAC system and a 4K roofing system from both my HVAC and roofing companies. I have outsourced thousands of dollars in home renovation to friends as well for this property.

    4 houses down purchased over 5k for fireplace/water heater from my HVAC company.

    6 houses down lost a 2-year old daughter to CO poisoning just 3 months after moving in. They had already lost a daughter to SIDS less than 2 years ago. They couldn't live in the house due to the emotional stress, so they demolished it and built new. I donated the 20K HVAC system and have received over 20 referrals from it.

    7 houses down puchased 3k A/C system from my HVAC company and sold me a mint Sno-Way for $300 to get me started in a 4th business...you guessed it...snow removal.

    22k in sales = 20k donation...all because I'm taking food off your table. Give me a break!

    I give because I am able....and without the notion of receiving. Giving gives...and when it doesn't...keep giving.

    Yesterday I called an elementary school teacher of mine who I have not spoken to in over 22 years (when I was her student) and told her that I wanted to plow her driveway for free because of the impact she had on my life. She cried and then declared she was paying someone to do it, but felt she couldn't say no to me. I told her that I will not do something for free that someone else is depending on and if things dont work out I'll be waiting for her call.

    You say I'm taking $/food off your table...I say if you didn't share and convince that prospect of the benefits of choosing your company over mine, then the business was never yours to have!

    You say I'm taking $/food off your table...I say if you provide unsatisfactory service to someone...you just lost another account...to me!

    Don't say you do it for free because they don't have the money. That is the last worthy reason for doing it and they probably do have the money.

    Sorry for being long winded...NEVER stop being a Great American.
  13. bterry

    bterry Senior Member
    Messages: 183

    Steve - at quality lawn care, I guess your getting the idea by now, but I'd like to add just one thing. Speak for yourself. It doesn't look like your values are the same as many of us here.
  14. DJL

    DJL Senior Member
    Messages: 343

    Does the same principals aple to other areas? Can you honestly say that you never stopped to help someone change a tire on the side of the road. I never felt like I was taking food away from the tow truck driver. I just don't get it.
  15. T-MAN

    T-MAN PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,363

    Guys , I dont think Steve is lookin to bash the boyscout helping the little ol'lady across the street here. I beleive his point is the guy who buys a new 4 wheel drive, gets a plow to do his own driveway and ends up plowing out everyone who will let him for free. This includes people under contract per push for residential. " I'll save ya some money cause this is fun". Then he starts to lick his chops and says I bet my bud with the small buisness would let me do his lot for free too!!!! Boy pushin a commercial lot would be more fun then those driveways. Get my drift ? I know were Steve is coming from, I have had the neighbor with the new blower helpin his neighbor out, show up to push and "Bob's gonna snow blow for free, save me some money Todd." But please come buy if it snows during the week cause "Bob" wont have time to do my drive then. Total BS if ya ask me. People are ignorant to this " Takin food of my table" as Steve puts it, I think I tend too look at it the same way.
    Oh and my neighbors husband of 56 years just passed away, I told her not to worry about her drive or sidewalks as long as she lives there. I wish I had the time to take care of her yard for free too. Oh and on the insurance issue you have "none" for snow plowing. So if you damage something other then your own truck while doing charity work it will not be covered. Your Auto insurance will only repair your truck, not the garage or fire hydrant that was damaged. Just my 2 cents Todd
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2004
  16. DJL

    DJL Senior Member
    Messages: 343


    It is not entirely true about your insurance not covering you if you hit a fire hydrant, telephone pole, etc. Well, at least for my case, and perhaps the original poster.

    I have commercial auto insurance on my truck and I have checked the box that says my vehicle has a plow. I'm covered for any damage caused DIRECTLY from my vehicle OR my plow. Therefore, if I drive through the neighbors garage I pay my deductible and I'm on my way (along with increased rates, a headache, etc.). However, if aunt millie slips and falls because of the snow melting and then refreezing my AUTO insurance will not cover a darn thing because it was not a direct cause from my plow OR my vehicle.
  17. T-MAN

    T-MAN PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,363

    DJL, good point on the auto insurance, as you stated you have commercial auto policy. I too have commercial and you are covered, as you stated. What I was refering too is non commercial auto insurance. They will cover your vehicle, the damage and no liability. Then they will drop you, and could sue you for damages. No BS, believe it guys. Just cause you insure 2 cars and your house really means nothing as far as loyality goes. If I recall they do ask if you use your vehicle for work right? :)
  18. DJL

    DJL Senior Member
    Messages: 343

    T-MAN, yes they ask if you use it for work. I had residential insurance and checked the box for having a plow on the vehicle. Immediate response was do you use it for business. They said it wouldn't be covered. However, what was covered under residential was if I did my personal home. Therefore, damage to MY property or strictly while in transit (i.e. to service shop, gas station, etc.) would be covered. The minute the plow went down on another driveway, lot, etc. no coverage!
  19. bobingardner

    bobingardner Senior Member
    Messages: 136

    I spoke to my insurance agent and was told that a private auto policy will not cover me for anything that happens while plowing someone else's driveway if they suspect I was doing on a regular basis, even if I'm doing for free. In retrospect this makes sense since I'm adding to the risk of an accident. I guess I should have checked with them before starting this thread. Sorry about the needless aggravation.

    So, some time next week I'll re-register as a commercial vehicle and update my policy. The agent said it will add about 10% to the cost. I also asked about general liability and was quoted $1500 a year and told it would not cover any truck related accident.

    I never intended to plow for money and it still isn't something I'm interested in doing. Owning a plow is just something I've wanted to do since I was a kid and I felt this was the best time in my life to do it. But I can't plow my driveway and not do my neighbors. I also can't charge them so my current plan is to sell the plow and truck in the spring.

    Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond.
  20. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    I suspect that's how a majority of people here started plowing, I know I did.

    1. Bought the plow to do my own driveway
    2. Since I've got it, might as well do a few neighbors to help pay for it
    3. Getting paid, I need insurance
    4. Take a few more to pay the insurance
    5. Some are calling for sanding/salting, so need bigger truck
    6. Take on some more to pay for the "bigger truck"
    8. and it goes from there....