Understanding Waivers of Subrogation for Contractors

Author, Casey Craig, Account Executive, Rancho Mesa Insurance Services, Inc.

 Waiver of Subrogration dictionary definition page.

In an era where general contractors commonly require a Waiver of Subrogation from its sub-contractors before they are allowed to step foot on the jobsite, it is important to understand how a Waiver of Subrogation functions. Most companies simply tell their agent they need the waiver added to their policy, but what does this mean? How does it affect the policy?

Subrogration is "the legal process by which an insurance company, after paying for a loss, seeks to recover all or a portion of the loss from another party who is legally wholly or partially liable for that loss," according to the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB). So, a Waiver of Subrogration prevents your insurance carrier from recovering funds paid on a claim from the named party requesting the waiver.

When subrogating, three things must be established:

1) The defendant was negligent (or that a product was defective),

2) Negligence proximately caused the damages for which the carrier paid, and

3) The amount and nature of the damages.

 If you cannot establish any one of these three, there will be no subrogation.

Subrogation is used throughout various lines of insurance. It is very common in dealing with auto insurance claims. If you are in an accident and the other driver is deemed to be at fault, your insurance company will respond first by paying to have your vehicle fixed. Then, the carrier will collect from the at fault driver’s insurance company to recover the amount they had to pay to fix your car. The insured’s carrier jumps on the claim immediately so that the insured will not have to wait for the claim to be disputed and resolved before their car is repaired. Claims are handled the same for every line of insurance, unless there is a Waiver of Subrogation in place.

When a sub-contractor is hired and has signed a Waiver of Subrogation for the project owner or general contractor, they are essentially waiving their carrier's ability to recover the money that was paid out on a claim that was caused by a third party's negligence. Waivers of subrogation often come in two formats. Either, the waiver specifically names an entity that the carrier waives its’ right to subrogate against, or a Blanket Waiver of Subrogation. If a Blanket Waiver of Subrogation is provided, the carrier must obtain permission from the named insured to subrogate against a third party.

When adding a Blanket Waiver of Subrogation to a policy, there is an additional fee to offset the carrier’s ability to reclaim money from any losses that were caused by a third party's negligence. These fees can change from carrier to carrier and it is a good move to review each policy to know exactly what you are paying for waivers. Adding a blanket waiver of insurance does not increase coverage or limits, it simply absolves an owner/general contractor of their liability.

With Waivers of Subrogation becoming more prevalent, it is easy to see how important it is as a business owner to know exactly what is covered and what you are waiving.

If you have any questions or would like to understand subrogation further, please contact Rancho Mesa at (619) 937-0164.