Professional liability insurance (PLI) has been a hot topic at the AIBC from as far back as the late 1990s. Many of you likely remember the active debates over the years and the past attempts at introducing professional liability insurance as a requirement for practising architects.
Fast forward almost 20 years and the topic of PLI is before us again. This time brought to our attention by a Member’s Motion From the Floor at the 2015 annual meeting and supported by members in attendance. Council approved the motion and in doing so, tasked staff, the Bylaw Review Committee and a PLI Working Group, to apply a current lens to the issue and provide recommendations for next steps.
An extensive review and research phase ensued, taking into consideration the benefits and impacts PLI would have for the public as well as members of the institute. Bylaws and other regulatory documents, such as council rules and rulings, were also explored in order to provide a complete picture.
The thrust of the proposed bylaws is to introduce mandatory PLI for certificate of practice holders (i.e., architectural firms). Council rules would establish minimum amounts of coverage as well as the mechanism by which evidence of insurance is provided. Existing council rulings would be reviewed to ensure they are in line with the bylaw amendments.
Council recently approved, in principle, the BRC’s recommendations including the proposed bylaws and council rules for consultation. Council also supported the launch of an insurance information and bylaw consultation period so that the institute can hear from members.
A substantial amount of material has been prepared for you and is available at aibc.ca. In-person/online sessions are being planned, paving the way for informed dialogue. A short questionnaire has been prepared to take inventory of the AIBC landscape and aggregate reasons why members choose to obtain coverage or, as the case may be, choose to opt out. Finally, a dedicated “PLI Hotline” is planned, inviting those with specific questions to call.
Professional liability insurance remains one of the best risk management tools available. While it protects clients, it provides important coverage for the professional whose duty is to accept responsibility for work performed. Practising architects who do not carry insurance may not be aware that they are essentially ‘self-insured’ and likely personally exposed. Professional liability insurance coverage provides a safety net that mitigates risk, provides financial peace of mind and can be used as a positive, differentiating factor in the industry.
While some things stay the same, a lot has also changed in the last 20 years. Today, the insurance provider marketplace is open, with reasonable policy and coverage choices available. Many authorities having jurisdiction require proof of PLI coverage. Finally, we are one of the last professions, architectural or otherwise, to mandate insurance. Being an outlier can be a point of pride, especially for British Columbians. However, I’m unconvinced this is a topic we want to be seen as resisting.
As a self-regulatory body regulating on behalf of the public, the introduction of mandatory professional liability insurance is long-overdue and we, as a profession, have an opportunity to show leadership in delivering our regulatory mandate.
The decision to introduce professional liability insurance is in the hands of all Architects AIBC and honorary members eligible to participate in the upcoming vote, tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2017.
On behalf of council, I strongly urge you to get informed. Please take the time to review the material, attend the consultation sessions, complete the questionnaire, submit your comments, call the hotline and avail yourself of all the resources available so that, come ballot time, you will vote from a well-informed position.
Darryl Condon Architect AIBC
AIBC Council President