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Does general contractors insurance cover asbestos-related illnesses?

The short answer is, No. If the only insurance coverage your construction business has is a contractors insurance policy, you are in danger. Your General Contractors general liability coverage is inadequate when it comes to claims relating to asbestos illness.

Construction is one of the most dangerous professions in the US. The hazards on a construction site go beyond bodily injury from falls, negligence or accidents. Apart from typical workplace bodily injuries. Life-threatening asbestos exposure threatens General Contractors. 

As a General Contractor (or in fact anyone with a contracting business) the effects of exposure and inhalation of asbestos fibers disturbed on a construction site have been catastrophic, long-term and even fatal. Asbestos contains microscopic fibers. It is when you disturb these fibres and they release into the air that the trouble starts. 

Is Asbestos Really A Danger For Contracting Businesses?

The diagnosis is 3000 cases of mesothelioma in the US every year. 90% of these patients were exposed to asbestos. Between 1999 and 2015, 45,221 deaths were reported due to the mesothelioma. These figures are terrifying, and the plumbing industry must take serious measures to prevent asbestos exposure.

Asbestos is a banned substance in more than 60 countries, but this is not the case across the US.

Due to the type of work you do, General Contractors and other contracting businesses receive asbestos exposure on construction sites. This includes exposure to building materials made of asbestos or disturbing asbestos during the process of construction.

This means that more than one company may be responsible. For instance, this includes General Contractors who continue to use asbestos-containing products, owners of asbestos-contaminated properties, and manufacturers of products containing asbestos.

Contracting businesses and General Contractors can be subject to lawsuits and even jail time. This is because, in all cases, the law recognizes the employers’ duty to keep employees safe.

The Dangerous Limitations of General Contractors Insurance

Asbestos liability means a General Contractor is legally responsible for illness resulting from asbestos exposure. If a court finds your contracting business liable for illness caused by asbestos exposure, you will have to pay damages.

General liability insurance covers third party injuries, customer property damage, and related lawsuits. Commercial leases and contracts often require them. But is this kind of contractor insurance policy enough?

It is common for many of today’s general liability insurance plans to list asbestos as an exclusion. This means the contractors liability policy specifically states that it does not cover asbestos-related claims.

What does this mean for your contracting business? If general liability insurance coverage is inadequate insurance for contractors and any construction business, what can you do? 

Long Time Coming

In 1930, it was discovered that one in every four workers had asbestosis in the asbestos industry. According to Census Bureau, US imports of asbestos were reduced from $1.14 million to $114,919 in 2019. However, the decrease in asbestos imports doesn’t eliminate the risk of asbestos exposure on construction sites.

Buildings constructed between 1940-70 pose a grave threat of asbestos exposure to tradespeople like plumbers, electricians, roofers and General Contractors working on projects that incorporate old buildings in new construction. Unfortunately contractors in the States also run the risk of asbestos-related diseases from new building materials.

The Silent Killer

Asbestos is a silent killer because many people still don’t consider it dangerous. Tradespeople like plumbers, electricians, and construction workers are at the risk of developing the following fatal asbestos-related conditions:

  • Mesothelioma: Fatal and incurable cancer of the lungs. 90% mesothelioma cases in the US arise due to asbestos exposure.
  • Asbestosis: Permanent damage to the lungs due to alveolar scarring, causing severe breathing problems.
  • Asbestos-Related Cancers: Causes Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal, ovarian, hematolymphoid cancers, and several other life-threatening conditions.

How Does It Happen To General Contractors?

Let’s look at plumbing contractors as an example. Asbestos fibers work as an excellent insulator for heat and electricity. Asbestos is used as an insulation material in the boilers, water pipes, and tanks. Plumbing workers are responsible for the installation, repair, and removal of these.

A plumber can develop these asbestos-related conditions due to a lack of awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos. Furthermore, plumbing workers and contractors find it difficult to bear the treatment expenses for these conditions, especially if they do not have Workers Compensation.  

Act Now. Get The Right General Contractor Insurance Coverage

When searching for contractor insurance, General Contractors usually start with,“I need the best insurance quote. It is important that I pay the best price for my contractors insurance.” 

What any General Contractor should be asking is, “What types of insurance do I really need?” or “Am I getting the liability coverage I need for my business?” In other words, “Out of all the types of insurance, is contractor insurance the right one?”

You should seriously consider graduating to a more complex general contractor insurance structure. For instance, a pollution liability insurance policy will protect your company against liability from damage caused by hazardous materials.  The pollution liability insurance policy covers bodily injury claims and property damage, along with clean-up costs caused by contamination from toxic waste materials.

It is time you spoke to an insurance agency who understands your specific needs and can provide comprehensive liability coverage at the right price. Our licensed agents at Contractors Liability can help. Call us at (866) 225-1950 for a tailor made 5-minute insurance quote or for more information.

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Written by: John Brown
John has more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry. He grew from a star insurance producer to owning one of the largest agencies in the country; he's a reference regarding contractor's insurance, commercial insurance, and builders' risk insurance.