What Can Alarm Companies Do to Prevent Lawsuits?

Dear Ken,

What is your perspective on the number of cases versus the number of alarm companies? Besides a rock-solid contract, is there anything we can do to prevent a suit from ever happening?


Alarm companies are an identifiable target when a subscriber suffers a loss. When the investigators and damage control people arrive, they see lawn signs, window stickers, stickers on panels and alarm equipment hanging on windows, doors and walls. If the subscriber had a loss, the homeowner’s policy should cover the loss. If not, somebody has to pay. May as well be the alarm company. What they heck was the alarm for anyway?

The trouble with providing alarm services is that you might end up being the target for a loss that you certainly did not cause and probably didn’t contribute to either. Loss could be result of illegal activity, fire caused intentionally, or from unknown source, such as breaking pipes, heat, cold, etc.

So, you get sued because your system or service failed to prevent a loss. You could have and should have installed it better or responded faster.

Many alarm companies can go through an entire career without any lawsuits. However, the problem is that it only takes one. Defending a lawsuit can cost anywhere from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand. If you are tagged with a judgment, the loss can be from a few hundred to a few million. The average alarm company, even if it could afford the defense cost, doesn’t want to have to do that. That’s why errors and omission insurance is so important.

In addition, while I am on that kick, please check your insurance. Make sure your general liability includes errors and omission coverage and that it’s written by an insurance company that understands the alarm industry. I just received a denial of coverage from a so-called insurance company with an alarm program. The company had the audacity to deny coverage with a letter from its attorneys that was too complicated for me to understand, but seemed to say that since there was no “bodily injury or property damage” there wasn’t any coverage. Well in alarm defense cases, there’s often a burglary loss, and that’s not bodily injury or property damage. And, the alarm company expects coverage when sued for negligence and breach of contract. But check your coverage and make sure your carrier is going to be there when you need it, not dancing around figuring out how to get out of covering the claim. Call me for some carrier recommendations if you need to. I won’t be shy about who not to use.

There is little you can do to escape lawsuits other than have proper alarm contracts and perform your services to the best of your (and your subcontractor’s) ability. Being responsive to your subscriber’s requests for assistance, service and information is also helpful. If there is a loss, however, you should immediately report that potential claim to the carrier and should you hear from the subscriber asking for information about the alarm you should insist that your carrier engage counsel immediately to assist you with any response. You paid for insurance and you shouldn’t hesitate asking for coverage. By the way, if the carrier assigns an attorney who doesn’t know the alarm industry don’t be shy about demanding another attorney who does. You can ask for specific counsel, though the carrier does have the right to select counsel, but only if competent.



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