Most of us consider ourselves to be technically astute when in the field performing inspections. We spend many hours each year learning through continuing education classes and meetings. But how often do we think about managing our risk each day? When is the last time you updated your contract? Do you think about what you do and say every day on the job with regard to risk management? Maybe not; the following are a few of the common missteps we often see when evaluating claims that could have been prevented; or at least the exposure could have been reduced.
1) The Inspection Agreement (or contract): Bottom line; get a signed contract from the client. It is not enough merely to include language in your report stating that “use thereof constitutes agreement with the policies herein and in the contract whether or not a signature has been obtained.” In these days of modern electronic communication, it is easy to send an agreement to the client as soon as the inspection is scheduled. Email the contract or send the client to your website to download a contract to execute and return (fax, email scan, mail, etc.). In some states a simple return email acknowledging agreement with the contract will work, as will the checked box “I agree” such as we see with software and other agreements. However, the old fashioned convention of obtaining a real signature on the document is always best. Without a signed agreement you risk denial of coverage from E&O providers and possible non-enforcement of the agreement should the contract be questioned in a legal proceeding.
2) Reporting Inaccessible Locations: National Standards of Practice by associations and those adopted by states all require the inspector to identify systems, components or locations that are to be inspected, but were not accessible for any reason. Inspectors are usually adept at noting these locations in their reports, however, we recommend that language similar to the following be added to the note: We recommend that this (location, system, component) be made accessible and inspected by a professional prior to expiration of the inspection contingency period; hidden damage may exist. We have been seeing claims where the client indicates he/she was not alerted to this possibility.