Tree care work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Workers literally risk their lives every day with the near constant opportunity for injury or death by “struck-bys” (falling limbs, hazardous trees, etc.), chainsaw lacerations, and chipper amputations.

According to the Tree Care Industry Association in 2010 alone, there were 3 fatalities directly related to tree work in Georgia. This includes a Sandy Springs accident where an individual from a 3-person crew fell 60′ from a tree that he was removing. These three fatalities are part of the 89 total reported fatalities in the country for the year, along with 59 non-fatal injuries.

YOU could be liable

The homeowner is ultimately liable for personal injury on their property when the company they have contracted with does not have worker’s compensation coverage. What’s worse, a company that engages in this practice will likely NOT be doing the other things necessary for safe operations which dramatically increases homeowner risk.

This type of company will probably have no safety policy or practice.  For example, workers will likely not be wearing hard hats (to reduce “struck by” accidents) or other protective equipment.  Additionally, they will likely not be using safe practices (e.g. accepted climbing techniques, safe saw/chipper operations, etc.) or equipment (e.g. old ropes, etc.).

Tree company short-cuts

Due to the understandably high cost of this coverage, WC fraud is unfortunately rampant in Georgia.  All kinds of tactics are used by companies to avoid this cost, including:

  • Simply don’t get coverage (most customers don’t even ask about it),
  • Faking their insurance certificate (those that ask, don’t verify it with the insurance company),
  • Only covering 1 individual on the policy.

Regardless of which tactic is used, if any of these are practiced by your contractor then YOU are liable if (or when) personal injury or death occurs on your property.

What you must do

There are two very simple things that you can do to make sure you are not liable:

  1. Get the insurance certificate and CALL the insurance company to verify BOTH effective dates and # of individuals on the policy or payroll size of the policy.Why? Certificates can easily be created/manipuated – sadly, this is practiced by some companies. Additionally, companies will only report one employee to their insurance company (payroll of $30,000 to $50,000) in order to get a certificate..of course, 3 or 4 people are needed on a typical crew.
  2. Have the company guarantee in writing that no UNdocumented workers will be used on your job.Why? The company’s insurance company can only speak to what the company reports. Since there are no circumstances in which an undocumented worker can be covered by WC, you should get this in writing directly from the contractor.

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About A Southern Tree

A Southern Tree provides tree care services to residential and commerical properties in the metro Atlanta area. While we remove trees that are dangerous, dead/dying or undesirable, we are distinguished by our effort to make tree removal a last resort. To that end, we provide quility pruning and treatment services as well as large tree planting. Additonal information about our company can be found at http://SouthernTree.com.