Dangerous Scratches

In Real Estate, the saying goes that “location is everything.” The same holds true for dumpsters and roll-off boxes. Where a dumpster or roll-off box is placed greatly impacts the safe servicing of that container, as well as whether the customer's property may be damaged. Each year, hundreds of claims are made against waste companies and their insurance carriers for damage done to driveways, yards and sidewalks.

Working directly with a homeowner requires greater finesse than dealing with a building contractor, roofer or other professional. Contractors and roofers understand the weight of dumpsters and roll-off boxes, and are familiar with the loading and unloading process. Accordingly, most contractors and roofers will ask that the container or box be placed in area where it will do the least damage, and will take steps such as putting down plywood to protect a driveway surface.

The homeowner is usually totally ignorant of the potential for driveway, yard and sidewalk damage. The clients may insist that a box be placed in an unwise location, even against the advice of the waste hauler, and will subsequently file a claim for property damage caused by that placement. For this reason, waste haulers that deal with homeowners should take the following precautions.

First, alert customers to the fact that there is a very good chance that their driveway or property will be damaged when the dumpster or roll-off box is delivered and picked up. This damage may be caused by the weight of the truck or the dumpster/roll-off box itself.

Next, a waste firm's invoices and contracts should contain a driveway/property damage waiver. The waiver should emphasize the potential for damage and the fact that the firm will not be held responsible. Once customers have been made aware of the risks, it will be more difficult for them to present a damage claim.

Finally, review your company's current procedures in the delivery of dumpsters and roll-off boxes and determine what steps can be taken to lessen the likelihood of damage claims. Some suggestions:

  • When customers place an order, advise them up-front of the potential for damage to their property.

  • Suggest to customers that they lay down plywood to help protect driveway surfaces, but emphasize that this does not guarantee that no damage will occur.

  • Offer advice, but make sure customers make the final decision on the placement of the box.

  • Make sure that the placement of the dumpster or box does not constitute a hazard, impede traffic or block the vision of drivers or pedestrians.

  • Before unloading the dumpster or roll-off box, advise customers again of the potential for damage.

  • Before the dumpster or roll-off box is unloaded from the vehicle, review the driveway/property damage waiver with customers and have them sign and date the document. Unwillingness to sign the document indicates that they are unwilling to assume the risk for potential damage.
    Bruce. A Hooker
    R.F. Mattei & Associates of CA Insurance Services
    Sacramento, Calif.