Law Firm Insurance: Sewer Backup
One of the most overlooked but essential insurance coverage a law firm can purchase is sewer and drain backup coverage.
What is “Sewer Backup”?
Large rain storms and floods can cause extensive water damage, but they can also cause sewage lines to overfill and back up into your law firm through the drain pipe. These types of backups are not only difficult and expensive to repair, but they can also pose a health hazard to other employees and students.
This type of insurance claim is typically excluded from a standard insurance policy unless you purchase an endorsement adding the coverage.
Did you know that you (or possibly your landlord) are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the pipeline between the city’s sewer main and your building (the sewer lateral)? A cracked or deteriorated lateral can allow groundwater to seep into the system, contributing to the possible sewer backup problems.
Causes of Sewer Backup
- Blockages due to Tree Roots: Shrubs and trees seeking moisture can make their way in to sewer line cracks causing extensive damage. They may start small, getting into a small crack in the pipe, but as the tree or shrub continues to grow, so does the root. Tree roots can enter the service pipe at joints and cause blockages.
- Sanitary Main: A blockage can occur in a city sanitary main. If the blockage is not detected in time, sewage from the main can back up into your firm through floor drains. These types of leaks will typically happen slowly.
- Water in Basement: Most basement flooding is unrelated to the sanitary sewer system, and it is typically a case of how the soil around the building has settled. If not fixed, this can drain rainwater into your firm instead of away from it.
Business Insurance Will Not Cover Flood Damage
Only flood insurance will cover your losses in the event of a flood. Federal flood insurance policies can be purchased directly from an insurance agent or a company representative and are available to communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Ways to Prevent Backups in Your Lateral and the City’s Main
- Dispose of Grease Properly: Cooking oil should be poured into a heat-resistant container and disposed of properly after cooling off, not in the drain. Washing grease down the drain with hot water can cause significant problems. As the grease cools off, it will solidify either in the drain, the property owner’s line, or the main sewer causing the line to constrict and eventually clog.
- Dispose of Paper Products Properly: Paper towels, disposable (and cloth) diapers, and feminine products can cause many problems in the property owner’s lateral and the city main because they do not deteriorate quickly, as bathroom tissue does.
- Replace your line with a new plastic pipe: To prevent tree roots from entering your line, replace your line and tap with a new plastic pipe. If you still have problems with tree roots growing in your lateral, you may have to have roots cut periodically.
- Install a Backwater Prevention Valve: A backwater valve is a fixture installed into a sewer line, and sometimes into a drain line, in the basement of your home or business to prevent sewer backflows. A properly installed and maintained backwater valve allows sewage to go out but not to come back in. Property owners are responsible for the installation and maintenance of backwater valves.
What to do if you Experience a Sewer Backup
A sewer backup can lead to disease, damage your valuables, damage your house or business, and even result in electrical malfunctions. Prompt cleanup of the affected property can help minimize the inconvenience and prevent mold and further damage. In the event of sewer backup, immediately arrange for the cleanup of your property. This should include:
- Wet-vacuuming or removing spillage
- Mopping floors and wiping walls with soap and disinfectant
- Flushing out and disinfecting plumbing fixtures
- Steam cleaning or removing wet carpets or drapes
- Repairing or removing damaged wallboard or wall covering
- Cleanup of ductwork
How to File a Claim
For insurance claim purposes, take before and after photos of the affected areas and itemize any property losses. Save all receipts related to repairs, cleaning, or damages and contact your Independent Insurance Agent as soon as possible.