When property is damaged as the result of a suicide, murder or unattended death, certain unique risks and complexities come into play for the insurance adjuster, the biohazard cleanup company, and of course, the policyholder. Many cleaning and restoration companies will offer bioremediation services, but only those that specialize in this area truly understand the science and intricacies of the bioremediation and decontamination process. In a recent Claims Journal article by Tim Reifsteck, co-founder of Aftermath, Inc crime scene cleanup who explained the sophisticated process behind a proper biohazard cleanup job, and why adjusters must be careful in choosing a cleanup company in order to avoid potential legal complications in the future.
Below are some highlights from the article Dissecting Biohazard Cleanup: Understanding the Process and Reducing Risk:
Are adjusters liable for an improper biohazard cleanup?
In short, the answer is: It’s possible. It might be tempting to utilize a general restoration company offering a lower cost, but doing so may put the insurer at risk for a lawsuit. A recent case involved policyholders currently suing their insurance company for a new home, valued at $600,000, after the general cleaning company who was hired by insurers to complete a biohazard cleanup failed to rid the home of the rotten stench.
What makes bioremediation so complex?
Health risks: Potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens can occur from either direct contact or inhalation. Considering one out of every 24 people has Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV and these pathogens can survive in a deceased person for a considerable amount of time, bioremediation specialists must follow stringent employee safety regulations and meticulous decontamination procedures that most cleanup crews are not accustomed to.
How do I know if I hired the right bioremediation provider?
These are the key things to inquire about when choosing a vendor for a biohazard cleanup:
OSHA Compliance – These regulations are in place to protect employees and prevent injury and potential liability for all involved. All supervisors and field technicians should be trained in the following OSHA programs: Bloodborne Pathogens, Personal Protective Equipment, Hazard Communication, Asbestos Awareness, Heat Illness, Fall Protection, Lift Safety, Lock Out – Tag Out, and Power Tool Safety.
EPA and State Environmental Agency Compliance – The disposal of medical waste must be in accordance with federal, state and/or local regulations. Make sure the biohazard cleanup company hired is licensed to transport/dispose of medical waste.
Reporting/Testing – A reputable company should be able to deliver a detailed report which catalogs every step of the cleanup process, including photos, list of items disposed, why the employees went through a certain amount of protective equipment, etc. They should also have equipment available to check for non-visible but active biological fluids and other contaminants so that it is certain when an area is considered disinfected.
Sensitivity Training – Biohazard cleanup specialists should appoint only one person to communicate with the family in order to avoid confusion or conflicting updates. Aftermath employees have been trained to eliminate alarming language from their vocabulary and speak empathetically with the policyholder.
Although no laws exist to protect policyholders throughout a biohazard cleaning process, there is still responsibility on the end of the insurance carrier to utilize bioremediation specialists who follow strict safety standards and cleanup procedures. Shortcutting a family on quality assurance could potentially present major consequences for not only the policyholders, but for insurance companies themselves.