Winterize Your Policies to Protect Against Driveway Defect Claims

February 19, 2014
Brad Goss, Nicholas Burkhart
SmithAmundsen St. Louis Alert



If history is any indication, the unusually cold winter we are experiencing will have home builders fielding calls for driveway defect claims just in time for Cardinals baseball. The last time St. Louis experienced bitter cold, driveway defect claims spiked the following year exposing many builders to unnecessary liability. Make sure you’re prepared for 2014 by asking yourself the following questions.

Do You Have the Appropriate Construction Procedures in Place?
Pavement and concrete defects can be caused by any number of factors, including environmental impact, defective materials and improper technique. Although we’d all like to hold Punxsutawney Phil liable for six more weeks of an already brutally long and cold winter, Mother Nature is out of your control. In order to limit your exposure to liability down the road, be sure to review cold weather construction procedures with your contractors, including procedures for proper concrete temperature at placement, proper curing and protection, and proper temperature control after placement. Failure to have comprehensive cold weather procedures in place may lead to pop-outs, scaling, blistering and weakened concrete strength. For more information, you can visit the American Concrete Institute which publishes a “Cold Weather Concreting” report, available online here.

Is the Problem Covered by a Warranty? Home buyer warranty programs vary widely on the coverage provided and exclusions applied. Whether the home warranty program you have in place is backed by you or an independent third-party insurer, a review of the program will not only give you peace of mind in 2014 but may make you reassess whether you have the most comprehensive risk management program in place.

Do You Have the Reserve Accounts to Cover Claims & Repairs?
Whether your warranty program obligates you to repair exterior concrete surface defects or you elect to repair or replace customers’ driveways as a matter of customer relations, be sure to review and adjust reserve accounts accordingly. Should you elect to replace or repair a surface that is not covered by warranty, make sure to provide a clear, written statement that conveys to the customer that you are not expanding, waiving or otherwise changing the terms or conditions of their warranty by providing the service.