Be a Good Neighbor: Strategies to Mitigate Risk of Damage to Adjacent Properties

By Andrew Mendelson, FAIA Executive Vice President, Chief Risk Management and CX Officer Berkley Design Professional, a Berkley Company

July 11, 2023

One of the emerging 21st Century perils for design professionals, particularly for structural engineers and architects, is the potential impact of the project you are designing on the condition and even the integrity of adjacent properties. Your legal duty as an architect or engineer is to your client according to the scope and terms of the professional services agreement as well as the responsibilities embodied in state statutes for licensed professionals. However, consideration should be given to those adjacent property owners during the planning stages, and efforts should be undertaken to protect against claims that could be made by other “injured parties” on adjacent properties.

In states where the applicable law embodies the principle of “joint and several liability,” disproportionate responsibility and financial exposure can be allocated to you as a design professional—even if your actions had very little to do with the causation of damages to an adjacent structure. Trends in design and construction claims and litigation indicate the casting of an ever-widening net with plaintiffs seeking defendants with deep pockets, such as your professional liability insurance policy and the assets of your firm. Therefore, it is prudent for design professionals to be proactive in managing risk with respect to potential exposure for damages beyond the property line of your project, especially in dense urban or suburban areas. Learn more about the steps you can take to mitigate the risks:

Strategies to Mitigate Risk of Damage to Adjacent Properties