Page 20 - Mississippi 811 Magazine 2021 Issue 2
P. 20

Will They Pay the Claim – Or Won’t They??
By Virginia Reames The Policy Center Jackson, MS
The purpose of mapping your utility’s lines is so you can locate them later on for any number of reasons – repair, replace and so that you can locate them when excavation for any reason is going to take place in or around your vicinity.
Knowing where your lines are is critical – especially given all the construction activity going on: new or expanding utilities, housing developments, road construction, repair of the aging roadways all over the country. Not have accurate mapping will become more and more costly.
State laws are being enacted to aid
in preventing damage to this vital infrastructure, the very lifeblood of
our growth if you’ll forgive the drama. Damaged utility lines are no longer just an inconvenience. It is rapidly becoming more than just unacceptable that an entire 911 system be knocked offline because someone cut the fiber optic – “Oops, sorry” isn’t going to work anymore. There’s no excuse for it either – we have drones, LIDAR, tracer wire, ground penetrating radar – the technology is there.
But we still have people handling it – or not handling it like they should. (More the problem!)
Everyone knows “Call Before You Dig” – and 811 then notifies the utilities who go out and mark their lines. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Any break in this chain and problems arise.
Until recently, if a utility’s contractor cut a line, the utility got a bill from the other utility, paid it, and life would go right on. Then someone would turn it in on their insurance, get a check, and all’s good.
BUT – because of the new, more sensitive lines, more expensive lines (fiber optic vs pvc??) – more critical lines, things are changing.
Each state is enacting various laws requiring that public utilities map their lines, know where their lines are, become a member of 811 ¬- and MARK the lines when they are alerted that construction or excavation will be happening near their lines. Did you read the part where I said “...various LAWS...”?? (That’s your key!)
Because of all these new sensitive lines - 5G, fiber optic, etc. when insurance companies get the bills from cutting a utility line, no longer do they pass it through to be paid. NOW they want to know whether 811 was called, and, if so, if the lines had been accurately marked – AND whether or not the utility’s maps have been updated regularly. Why?
Because it is NOW the law!
It is the law because too much now depends on these lines-- schools, 911, lives actually depend on these lines – not just an annoying water leak. That’s why laws are being passed so that not only are we aware, but aware of our responsibility NOT to damage these lifelines. And because it is now the law, insurance companies double, triple- check on exactly how these lines were cut, who cut them, were they marked and, if so, why were they cut anyway.
If any portion of the state law was not adhered to, there isn’t going to be a check! That’s right, insurance does not have to pay in the case of violating the dig law.
As the insured, if you are excavating and you didn’t call 811 and advise of the
digging activity in the plans, if lines get cut – be aware, you are going to have to fund the repairs yourself, and hope the only problem is a cut line. If someone can’t get through on 911 because your guy cut lines that weren’t marked because you didn’t call 811, yes, you could find yourself in court over it. And likely your insurance isn’t going to be there defending you, either – because you failed to comply with the dig law – and insurance does not have to pay if a law was violated.
As the insured, you can’t fall back on,
“I thought my contractor called 811.” – Although the law requires the excavator to call 811, from an insurance liability perspective, it is not his problem.
Your contractor subbed it to another guy? YOU are still liable – you hired the contractor(s) – they were doing your job. Contractors and their sub- contractors are not the insured – YOU are!
The frequency of claim denials by insurance companies makes it really clear that you HAVE to protect yourself by complying with the law – being a member of, and calling 811, whenever you have a project requiring any form of digging that could damage lines.
It is critical – and to your financial benefit – to maintain, and properly update your line maps- every couple of years minimum, if not annually.
That’s how to make sure that your insurance company remains your
ally in the event of a claim. They are NOT going to pay a claim if you are
in violation of any law – and they are increasingly aware of the newer laws happening at the state level mandating membership and current line maps.
18 • Mississippi 811 2021, Issue 2

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