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Acoustic Consultants

Acoustic consultants (also known as acousticians or acoustic engineers) are specialists in the science of sound. They manage, regulate and control the noises and vibrations that surround us in the workplace, the home and the environment. Acoustical Consultants are drawn from a wide array of disciplines including engineering, physics, architecture, industrial hygiene, and performing arts, particularly music and entertainment. Some continue to offer services outside acoustics, but all benefit from their backgrounds in these related fields.

Acoustical Consultants seek to solve real world problems affecting individuals, businesses, institutions, and the community. They are designers, problem solvers, advisors, mediators, and inventors practicing across a range of specialties typically including one or more of the following:

  • Architectural Acoustics - all types of buildings, auditoria, stadia, schools and multi-building developments
  • Mechanical Systems Noise & Vibration Control - air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems, rooftop units, chillers and cooling towers, central plants
  • Industrial Workplace Noise - manufacturing, processing plants, oil/mining operations, power generation
  • Environmental Noise Evaluation & Control - transportation, industry, recreation, residential & commercial development and entertainment facilities
  • Product and System Design - audio products and systems; sound quality of appliances, machines and vehicles
  • Forensic Acoustics - environmental noise, hearing damage, signal detection, scientific counsel to the legal profession

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How do insurers rate a risk and what do they look for?

Size of practice

One of the major factors that determines the rate and underwriting criteria of insurers is the size of the practice. This can be established in two ways: the first is based on the number of partners and staff, and the second on the gross annual income of the firm. Insurers will evaluate the activities undertaken by the insured and will calculate an applicable rate. This rate will also take into account past claims experience and the underwriter's attitude towards the risk as a whole. This rate is then applied to the fee income, and results in a rate for the cover.

Qualification and experience

In line with underwriting philosophy across the professions, insurers need to satisfy themselves that a firm and its controllers and staff are suitably qualified to carry out the work undertaken on behalf of a client. In the event that the consultant has no formal qualifications, insurers normally require a CV in order to establish the extent of the consultants experience

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Trade bodies and Certification Schemes

  • Institute of Acoustics
  • Association of Noise Consultants
  • Construction Skills Certification Scheme

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Required Limit of Indemnity

Members of the Association of Noise Consultants are required to carry no less than £200,000 of Professional Indemnity Insurance

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Policy wordings

The policy wordings insurers use for Acoustics are by no means the same. Wordings may be on a "miscellaneous professions" basis, however, in some instances wider and more specific cover may be offered via an Architects or an Engineering Consultants policy wording particularly where there is more of an element of building design work. Specific wording such as a Architects wording can be more appropriate because the wording has been derived from a miscellaneous wording but then extended via the addition of specific heads of cover which are focused towards the work being undertaken. Such extensions may include Collateral Warranties, loss of documents, Pollution and on occasionally, some insurers will offer cover for the litigation costs of recovering unpaid fee accounts. Ask to see a copy of the wording before you enter into a policy and ensure the person arranging the policy understands its various meanings.

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Collateral warranties/duty of care agreements

Hammond PI receives more questions in respect of collateral warranties than almost anything else. Care should be taken when entering into such agreements and a legal opinion is always recommended.

You should ensure that your policy wording provides cover for such undertakings many will not. Where cover is provided the policy will give specific guidance with regard to things such as assignments, insurers providing cover will generally take the view that they will accept claims arising from sensibly worded agreements only. The British Property Federation (developers' trade association) has agreed standard templates with some construction related professional bodies, which many insurers will accept.

Insurers regard the acceptance of contractual liability beyond that normally owed by a professional to be beyond the intention of a PI policy. Therefore more unreasonable agreements could have very damaging effects on professionals, leaving them without cover. Most PI policies address the issue of collateral warranties by setting out clearly the limits beyond which cover will not apply. This should avoid the need to submit each and every agreement for sanction by the insurer.

Some of the more restricted policies however, offer very little cover in connection with this type of agreement, not even covering the British Property Federation agreements described previously. Of course, the 'claims made' nature of PI policies causes some difficulty. If an insured signs up to a collateral warranty having reassured themelf that it is within the scope of their PI cover, what if later thery choose to (or is obliged to) change insurer? What happens if the insurer changes the wording in a subsequest year?

For this reason, Hammond regularly advises clients to sign up to sensible agreements only and to take proper advise when necessary.

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Collateral Warranty Services

Many policy holders send appointments and warranties to their insurers in the hope that the insure will advise if the agreements breaches their policy conditions and if there are any aspects of the agreement the acoustic should be aware of. In reality most insures will do little other than confirm that the policy wording addresses warranties or that they have noted the existence of the document. Some insurers are however, now offering a Collateral Warranty Service via wither their own in house legals or by outsourcing it to solicitor firms. Some charge a small fee for this, others provide it for free but many won't provide any feedback at all. When purchasing insurance service can be a very useful facility even if the price of the insurance is not the cheapest.

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Presenting your proposal for insurance

The presentation of your business to insurers is very important both in respect of the facts i.e. the things for which cover is required, and the way in which you do your business, both of which influence an insurer's perception of your business and the risk it poses to them. We would always recommend that in addition to the proposal form you are asked to complete, you provide supporting documents with your proposal such as:

  • A CV showing the principals qualifications and experience in the areas of business to be covered
  • Any Terms of Business or terms of engagement you use
  • A copy of your corporate brochure
  • Details of your website
  • An insurance history listing all material changes to your business since you first had professional indemnity insurance. For example, mention any previous businesses for which you require cover.It is possible you may be asked for a claims history from the previous business or a copy of its last completed proposal form.

Don't forget to include the names of any businesses with which you have merged, or any that you have acquired, as these will need historic cover. Likewise you may have ceased to offer certain services for which cover is still required. Keep a written record of all requests for cover to be extended and any historic or material changes to your business. This information can be updated each year and provided as an addendum to the proposal. Any certification the business may have i.e. accreditation by a governing or standards council, is also well worth disclosing.Keep your presentation neat and tidy. Bear in mind that an untidy presentation may be construed as an untidy business. Allow yourself time to complete the presentation and remember that a hard copy always look better that a faxed one sent in at the last minute

The Professional Indemnity Insurance market is relatively small so at the point of renewal, concentrate on asking only one or two specialist brokers to quote. Bombarding the market with requests can result in your proposal being locked out of some markets. Renewal is an ideal time to review your insurance requirements. As your business grows and your contract values increase, it is wise to consider what could go wrong and how much it may cost to settle a claim - and also cover the attendant legal costs. Some policy wordings provide a limit of indemnity with legal costs in addition to the limit.

Others provide limits of indemnity which include the legal cost. However, the cost of litigation is high and can eat into the limit of indemnity provided if costs are inclusive. Many professionals are obliged to carry PI by their professional bodies. Many of these bodies not only have specific requirements in respect of policy wording but also on the limits a professional must carry and the excesses they are allowed. Renewal is an opportune time to check your cover both in respect of your own requirements and those of your professional bodies.

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Associated Links

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Related Downloads

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