Shirley Forer: A Pillar of Resilience in New York’s Challenging Construction Insurance Climate

Shirley Forer of The Related Companies makes obtaining construction liability insurance a breeze for New York project owners.
By: | July 14, 2023

A statute in New York State makes it prohibitively expensive for construction firms to obtain liability insurance. New York Labor Law 240 imposes strict liability on project owners for worker injuries resulting from falls from height.

The statute also enables injured workers in New York to pursue an action over a claim to the general liability program, where damages greatly exceed those recoverable under a workers’ compensation program.

As a result, there is widespread abuse of the law, and claimants and their attorneys often receive significant judgments that range from high six-digits to multiple millions of dollars based on injuries that are self-inflicted, exaggerated or fabricated.

Due to these rising claims, the cost of insuring a construction project is significantly higher in New York than in any other state, and many insurers are unwilling to offer primary coverage or sufficient limits. Those that do require deductibles of more than $1 million.

Enter Shirley Forer, vice president, construction risk management at The Related Companies, who has placed more than one dozen projects with construction volumes above $5 billion, with equivalent insurance costs in the hundreds of millions.

During her time, she has secured some of the largest owner-controlled insurance programs covering major construction projects in New York City, including those of the New York City School Construction Authority, Brookfield Properties’ Manhattan West and Related’s Hudson Yards.

“Our approach to risk management has allowed Related to enjoy great partnerships with our insurance partners and continues to attract underwriting interest.” — Shirley Forer, vice president, construction risk management, The Related Companies.

Working with her safety and claims team, Forer has quickly identified and addressed many of the issues caused by the statute. By harnessing additional safety resources, aggressive claims management and risk financing techniques to attract greater insurer interest, she has been able to better control exposures and mounting expenses for the companies she has worked at while continuing to keep their workers safe.

“With the efforts I have been able to deploy, the average costs of construction insurance to my current and previous employers have trended materially below the industry average, and the resulting loss frequency is also lower than average,” said Forer.

“Our approach to risk management has allowed Related to enjoy great partnerships with our insurance partners and continues to attract underwriting interest in our construction projects in New York as well as in the rest of the country.”

Sonia Drexler, executive vice president at Willis Towers Watson, said: “Shirley is a top-notch risk manager and formerly a broker with a deep knowledge of the construction industry.

“She has a large network of underwriters, risk managers and brokers that she can tap into to stay on top of the happenings in the insurance and construction industries,” Drexler added.

“While working with me at WTW, she worked on some of the largest owner-controlled insurance programs for public entities, private developers and international construction companies accounts.

“She is inquisitive, curious, creative and resourceful, and she always looks for new ways to bring solutions to the table.” &

Every year, Risk & Insurance selects deserving candidates to become Risk All Stars. These are risk managers who, through their perseverance, passion and creativity, make a big difference to the stability of their organizations.

See all the 2023 Risk All Star Winners here.

Alex Wright is a UK-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected].

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