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Legislation Proposes Liability Protection For Architects, Engineers Who Offer Disaster Relief Help

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New legislation being pushed by the American Institute of Architects could allow homeowners affected by natural disasters to get the help they need by imdemnifying architects and others who offer help after a disaster. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

In the aftermath of a disaster, many people come forward to volunteer to help those in need. But sometimes, those who want to help can’t offer their professional services because they fear there is a liability risk.

"We're advocating for Good Samaritan liability protection for architects, engineers, landscape architects and land surveyors who volunteer their services following a declared disaster," says Timothy Boyland of the American Institute of Architects, New York State.

Boyland and Lance Jay Brown are from the American Institute of Architects. They are pushing state lawmakers to follow 25 other states in passing Good Samaritan legislation so architects, engineers and others in related fields are indemnified when they offer professional help after a disaster.

After Hurricane Sandy, hundreds of architects and engineers wanted to help the overtaxed city agencies with home assessments and structural evaluations, but AIA had to warn them not to get involved in the recovery efforts because they could be sued if there was an issue later on, a lesson learned after the September 11th attacks.

"After 9/11, there were engineers on the ground who were sued for air quality issues for which they took no responsibility and had no engagement," Brown says. "They were there just as structural engineers, but they were included in class-action suits."

The proposed bill would only offer the indemnity to these volunteer professionals for a set period of time after a disaster.

The bill is facing strong opposition from members of the legal community. But as the debate continues, time is ticking. AIA hopes to have it passed quickly so they can develop a plan of action.

"We would have people trained to be boots on the ground the next time there is a disaster, to be out doing assessments, doing structural work and helping these neighborhoods as quickly as possible," Boyland says.

So what do you think? If you strongly support or disapprove of the bill, now is the time to let your voice be heard. The legislative session ends next week, and many hope it can come to a vote before then.

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