Monthly Archives: August 2016

Illinois Passes Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act

Illinois Flag - the first state to pass a limited snow removal leability act

What is the Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act in Illinois?

Simply put, this new law in Illinois prevents the passing of liability from the property owner to another party for snow/ice removal related lawsuits.  This means that property owners cannot transfer risk from themselves to a snow removal contractor for a snow or ice related incident (like a slip and fall lawsuit) on his or her property.  The law is meant to protect all parties with the side goal of reducing insurance premium and claims costs for all.

Why the Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act in Illinois is good for Everyone

When you look at the title, the law (SB2138) seems to only protect snow plow contractors from taking on the risk of property owners.  This legislation came about by the influence of ASCA who sees the law is good for all responsible parties and who hopes to see the law spread throughout the US.

The reason the law is good is because it puts responsibility and accountability with the only party that can truly be accountable and responsible for a piece of property, the property owner.  While snow removal contractors are partners with property owners, only the property owner can ensure the property remains safe for pedestrian and vehicular traffic.  When the property owner fulfills their responsibility, pedestrians get hurt less, lawsuits go down, insurance rates go down, and both property owners and snow removal contractors keep a healthier business.

What Would Happen Without the Liability Limitation Act?

There are two scenarios we commonly think of when it comes to pushing liability down the road.  First off is the “innocent sub-contractor.”  Large property owners often hire large snow removal companies and in the contract, the property owner pushes the liability down to the contractor (i.e. if anyone slaps us with a slip and fall lawsuit in the winter, you, Mr. Contractor, pays the bill, not us).  Yet some large contractors have more work than they can handle, so they hire a sub-contractor (i.e. a guy with a truck and a plow) to handle the job and in this next contract liability is pushed from big contractor to little sub-contractor.  Yet many of these “guys with a plow” do not completely understand the language of the contracting pushing liability down to them nor do they necessarily have the experience necessary to avoid lawsuits, yet the big contractor is not concerned because they no longer have the risk of a lawsuit, putting the sub-contractor and the property owner in a risky situation.

The other scenario that happens is that the property owner puts out the plowing job for bids and chooses the cheapest quote where he or she can push liability down to the contractor.  The property owner may not actually care how safe the property is, he or she feels covered because the contract pushed all of the liability to the contractor, so due diligence is never taken in choosing a quality snow removal contractor nor is there a lot of planning on what will happen during snow and/or ice events.  The “problem” is now in the lap of the contractor.

In either scenario, there are too many small snow removal contractors that do not understand the full implications of taking on liability, they often have inadequate insurance coverage, and there are factors they are unprepared for or cannot control on the property during a snow or ice event.  So what happens, there is a slip and fall event, and the property owner gets sued.  The property owner takes out the contract and says “Hey contractor, you said you would pay the bill.”

Now the small guy, usually just starting out in snow removal, is not prepared for the lawsuit, and many small snow contractors find their dream of working for themselves has become a nightmare from the lawsuit.  If the insurance coverage was not enough, he files for bankruptcy, and the injured person has to try to get their due from someone else.  If the insurance coverage is enough, this contractor may find his rates skyrocket after having a significant incident, and then his dream still goes up in smoke because he can’t afford the insurance bill.

This may be a bit simplistic, but you get the picture.  The only person who can control all aspects of safety, the property owner, basically pushes their responsibility to someone else, leaving many people at risk.

What Happens with the New Act?

Senator Nybo - Sponsor of the Snow Removal Service Liability Limitation Act in IllinoisSenator Chris Nybo, the sponsor of the bill, told Snow Plow News, “Property owners and managers are no longer able to cut themselves out from any liability for injuries and accidents. Therefore, I’m hoping they will work more effectively with contractors to adopt service practices that best promote safety for pedestrians and drivers, rather than just lowering cost, which sometimes can result in cutting corners and jeopardizing safety.”

Now that the property owner is on the hook, the property owner should (by their own or by the “encouragement” of their insurer) do their homework to hire a quality snow removal company.  The property owner and snow removal company work out a plan of how to keep the property safe for people and vehicles (or our “let’s not to get sued” plan for some), including property improvements, a snow/ice event action plan executed by the contractor, documentation that the plan is being worked, and mid-season and post-season checks to see how to improve property safety in the future.  We should mention all through the winter, the property owner will be more likely to inspect the property and hold the snow removal company accountable BEFORE an incident if they know they are the only one on the hook if there is a slip and fall incident.

A side benefit of this is the potential for an insurance premium decrease because with the property owner vigilant about their property it is expected accidents will be less.  Also, the brand new snow contractor who was getting low premiums (because he never had an accident before) doesn’t pass on the insurance burden to the older stable companies who are still in the game after the new contractor leaves the industry.

Winners and Losers with the Bill

We like to think that pedestrians and people who drive onto these properties are the biggest winners because we expect more property owners to take quality care of their property in the winter.  We expect diligent snow removal companies to win because they will be more likely to earn the business from property owners who would like to keep a safe property for everyone who steps or drives onto the grounds.  We expect conscientious property owners to win too as they delight their visitors and employees with safe grounds and avoid avoidable law suits.  We expect insurance companies to win with a decline in claims.

As for losers, we expect lazy property owners to lose, because they will feel the bite of a lawsuit when they do not choose their snow removal contractor carefully or when they do not partner together with their snow removal team to keep a safe property.  We expect poorly performing snow removal companies to lose because property owners will have less tolerance for shoddy work that puts them at risk.

How do you feel about the new legislation?  Be sure to add to the conversation on our Facebook Page.

Note:  This post was updated on Sept. 2, 2016, to include Senator Nybo’s comments to Snow Plow News.

Winter Weather Outlook Accuracy Tracking 2016-2017

 

Winter Wearther Outlook 2016-2017 Map 2It is time to place your bets on what the winter weather outlook will be like for the 2016-2017 winter season.  We will be looking at several popular weather forecasters, writing down what they say winter will be like, and tracking to see how accurately they forecast.

We are going to keep this post updated over the next few months while we check in to see how accurate the major players will be.  In the running this year is NOAA, The Weather Channel, Accuweather, The Old Farmers’ Almanac, and our own in-house forecasters.

How accurate do you think they will be?  Though most meteorologists make fun of The Old Farmers’ Almanac, the publication self-boasts of an 80% accuracy rate even though they have to commit to their forecasts months before the first copy of the Almanac is sold at the end of August.  Indeed, the old Almanac was highly accurate for the 2014-2015 season…but then again their forecast fell very short last season…very, very short.

NOAA has had a lot of criticism over the last few years, but they were closer to the mark last winter season in their long range forecast (warmer than average temperatures in the northern states, below average in southern states, dry in much of the US, but wetter than normal in the south and eastern coastal states and California).

Last year, The Weather Channel, Accuweather, and Snow Plow News had early winter predictions similar to the NOAA.  Will they all be similar again this year and more importantly, will they be right?  I can hear my pessimistic friend now whom often said, “no other career can you be wrong 50% of the time and still have job.”

All joking aside, we want to know what winter is going to be like this year to be ready for the snow.  So far, one of our own forecasters has “absolutely guaranteed” there will definitely be more snow than last season (then he added because last year was so dry, so he did really feel like he was going out on a limb).

So here are the 2016-2017 Winter Forecast Predictions for the Northeast and Midwest from some of the bigger players.

NOAA 2016-2017 Winter Weather Outlook

The NOAA winter forecast for Dec 2016 – Feb 2017 calls for colder temperatures than normal only for Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Montana.  The NOAA is also calling for more precipitation than average in the Midwest, especially Michigan.

Winter Wearther Outlook 2016-2017 Map 2Winter Wearther Outlook 2016-2017 Map 1

The Old Farmers’ Almanac 2016-2017 Winter Weather Outlook

The Old Farmers’ Almanac winter forecast calls for a mild and dry winter for much of the US with colder than average temperatures only in the far northern portions of the US.  Extra precipitation is called for in every state that touches the US/Canada border, the other New England states plus northern Illinois and Indiana, mostly falling in December.  (For reference, we grabbed their forecast from pages 112-113 on the US online version of the Almanac)

The Weather Channel 2016-2017 Winter Weather Outlook

As of this writing we are still waiting for The Weather Channel to release their winter outlook.

Accuweather 2016-2017 Winter Weather Outlook

One of the earliest to release an expected forecast (June 26, 2016), Accuweather expects an early start to the winter season anticipating cold and dry for most of the US with heavy snows only in a small area in western New York, northwestern Pennsylvania, and northeastern Ohio near the Great Lakes.

Winter Wearther Outlook 2016-2017 Map 3

Snow Plow News 2016-2017 Winter Weather Outlook

Not to be outdone, our team is also expecting slightly higher than normal snow falls in the northern states with temperatures a little under average.  The closer to the Canadian border you are, the more likely you are to get more snow and the Ohio River Valley should get a little more than normal snow as well.

August Summary of the 2016-2017 Winter Weather Outlook

With uncertainty about what will happen in the South, it appears people are placing their bets on slightly higher than normal snow falls in the northern states, slightly colder than average temperatures in the northern states, and an early start to the winter.

Be sure to check back every few weeks as we will note how accurate our forecasting friends have been.  Would you like to add to the conversation?  Hop on over to our Facebook page and share your thoughts.

Plow & Spreader Deals – 2016

Traffic Safety has fantastic Pre-Season specials on Western Plows and Spreaders.

This is a promo price not available via internet search so click the link here for details – EOS plow spreader sale 2016 – Quantities are limited so call soon for more details.  

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