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Risk

Residential Dock - to sign or not to sign?

14 posts in this topic

I have a friend with a marine construction company. He wah been doing this for over 15 years and has always relied on the same 1 or 2 guys to sign and seal his plans. He tells me that the dock plans are cookie cutter and are always built the same. He has never been legally challenged or sued.. and the PE's he uses have never had any problems... not even one!

He asked me the other day if I wanted the work. Now, i am a civil PE mostly dealing with stormwater, underground, and land development. He assures me there is no risk and if he has to pay someone to sign and seal, it may as well be a friend. This little side work would probably net me $200 a pop at about 6 to 10 docks per month.

Of course I would study the plans and learn what i needed to to understand what i was signing... But, my question is this:

What kind of liabilty am i looking at? Where could i go to learn specifically about structural for docks? For only $200 per dock, is this even worth it? Sounds like he has someone now who just stamps and moves on...

Thoughts???

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double post.. fail

Edited by Risk

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If this is something that you are not experienced in, then I wouldn't do it.

It might sound like a slam dunk, but if you don't know how to verify if this dock is adequate for the imposed loads then you shouldn't take this work.

My :2cents:

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Never do business with friends or family.

Very rarely ends well.

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I absolutely would not do it without professional liability insurance. You should find out how much that would cost, then make your decision on whether or not $200/dock is a fair price. I have no idea how much the insurance costs, so you might have the ability to make a killing on this...or it might be a losing proposition. But even if he's "never had a problem...ever," that doesn't mean that the first one you stamp won't be the first one to fail.

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dumb question, are these just docks like residential lake docks for private individuals or something for marinas?

Is it just related to getting a permit?

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I realize the issues with signing something you are not familiar with.. But I am still an engineer. I have tha bility to think and reason and provide calculations, It just seems that you can never get experience if you do not start somewhere. This is where i am losing it. I would like to learn.

I do appreciate the comment of the insurance. I will probably run this through my current employer who is also a civil PE.. Of course i will have to share.

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dumb question, are these just docks like residential lake docks for private individuals or something for marinas?

Is it just related to getting a permit?

Private individuals... permit related.

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I concur with others that said if you're taking responsibility for any plans then as a minimum you need errors & ommissions insurance to cover any potential claim. It would be like driving a car without insurance. Although the likelihood of needing it is small, are you willing to take the risk?

That being said, does your stamp say "Civil" or just "Professional" engineer. if it's a "Civil" and you're sealing structural drawings the you'd better be prepared to be abvle to support any and all designs that the plans show. Of course you'd need to do that anyway, but moreso with a "civil" stamp because anyone who looks at that might just question why a civil is stamping them ion the first place.

Read your specific state regulations carefully and make sure what you're proposing to do meets all the requirements. If you believe it does, then go for it. Otherwise don't jeopardize your license.

Lastly, if your friend's docks are for out of state installation, check the location of the ionstallation before you seal it. You might be setting yourself up for practicing without a license if you put your seal on plans for a job oin a state where you are not licensed.

good luck

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My company does this type of work all the time and your friend is generally correct in saying that there are few lawsuits.

HOWEVER, N E V E R do any work that you do not have INSURANCE to cover. Turn off your engineer brain about trying to manage risk.

Do you want to lose your house? Do you want to work until you are 75? Do you want to eat ramen noodles for a year?

Simply put the risk does not outweigh the reward.

If you want to do this type of work, get some insurance and start doing it for reals.

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I'd say go for it, but check with an Attorney (at a minimum get an LLC or equivalent) and Insurance agent.

You may even want a single page agreement with your friend regarding general terms, like payment, usage, rights, and modifications.

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This is a receipe for failure-- don't do it-- AT ALL. Here is the "engineering" logic behind my counsel--

If you have never done this, you are correct, you need to start somewhere. Here is probably NOT the right place to start. WHY? It is your buddy-- buddies and money and risk never work-- remember the 3 legged stool, there is always one short leg-- think about this if you have any type of relationship with your buddy.

Insurance is both necessary and required. Others have cited that-- heed the advice and counsel here. Although it may be only $200/pop and you get 5-7 pops a month, no insurance and you are screwed-- this was cited previously.

Why is your buddy wanting to change-- just to help you? I would want to explore this reason with some vigor-- there may be a reason here that has not yet been revealed.

I understand the desire to make a couple of bucks extra a month. However, this is NOT the way to do it. You are risking your license, your professional reputation and most of all, your integrity by doing this. If you really want to become a dock engineer, then probably find a part time job where you are the second engineer on the project and do it for a 12-15 months before you take responsible charge of the work. This too was cited previously, though not quite in this way.

We all want to make an extra couple of bucks-- there is way too much risk here to begin the way that you are thinking about. The advice with the attorney and some type of business formation entity is also right on-- trust us, we are trying to help you not make a dumb decision.

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I believe that running this through your employer is step one. Step two is find out what is involved/look at the plans & evaluate. If you and your employer are comfortable doing this, recreate the plans with your input/revisions and charge accordingly. If you can not do structural, don't do it but I'm guessing that even licensed stormwater PEs will have some structural ability.

We all have to start somewhere and we can't always use experience.

Be careful with the friendship aspect, I don't like mixing engineering services with friendships.

Edited by rktman

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I believe that running this through your employer is step one. Step two is find out what is involved/look at the plans & evaluate. If you and your employer are comfortable doing this, recreate the plans with your input/revisions and charge accordingly. If you can not do structural, don't do it but I'm guessing that even licensed stormwater PEs will have some structural ability.

We all have to start somewhere and we can't always use experience.

Be careful with the friendship aspect, I don't like mixing engineering services with friendships.

I am running everything through my employer. He has us covered on the insurance end. Of course i have to share... but that is not only the right thing to do, it keeps everything above board. He has done a few docks through the years and plans to help me get started. I'd really like to do this, but not at the cost of my integrity or my liscence. I am still working through the specifics, pro's and con's, and such.

Thnaks for all the advice.... Invaluable.

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