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RE: Legal and liability - using my stamp

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Mark:
 
I think that the relatively few people who responded to your query might have left you with some faulty conclusions.  My late responses (inserted below) are offered with this in mind.
 
HTH,
 
Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas
 


Thanks to all who responded.  Very educational. 

So far, several people have said that insurance is of questionable use and may even be a bad idea. 
 
As a practical matter, most mainstream design firms carry professional liability insurance which is renewed annually on a claims-made basis.  While it is probably true that such insurance tends to promote claims, most design firms larger than sole-practitioners are unwilling to risk going bare.  Also, most quality clients insist that their design firms be fully insured. 
 
There is also the discussion about who should stamp what.
 
There really shouldn't be any discussion on this.  The PE rules and regulations in most (if not all) states require (or intend to require) that the work be sealed by the licensed engineer who personally produced it or supervised its production.  The antiquated idea of a chief engineer who seals all of the work by a design firm is illegal, and has been so for several decades.
 
Also, there is risk, including lifetime liability and "prior acts" liability.
 
There is no such thing as as "lifetime liability" with respect to professional engineering services.  Virtually all states have a statute of limitation which limits your liability to a fixed period of time (usually 10 years) following substantial completion of the project construction.
 
If the risk is not dealt with by insurance, or even if it is, it should be compensated for with a decent salary, partial ownership, etc.
 
The risk that you refer to goes part and parcel with your professional license.  That is part of what separates you from the general public.  If your employer expects you to do design work and seal it on their behalf, they need to carry professional liability insurance.  If they don't, you ought to consider working elsewhere.  If you work for an employer that does carry professional liability insurance, then the risk to you is personal (professional reputation, professional license) rather than financial.  Your best way to avoid lawsuits is to do first-class work and avoid short-cuts and/or partial services.  However, even the best engineers can expect to be sued a couple of times during their careers.  The costs are borne by the employers and their insurance coverage.  This is normal, and has no direct relationship to their compensation, partial ownership, etc.    

Now I have some things to talk to my firm about.  What a great list.

Thanks All,
Mark Johnson
P.S.:  Thank you for scoring two goals in the 1980 Olympic Miracle On Ice!!