When serious trouble befalls a bonded contractor, its surety might be called upon to shoulder significant risk both downstream (i.e., payment obligations to subs & suppliers) and upstream (i.e., performance obligations to the owner, if the bonded contractor is prime, or to the prime, if the bonded contractor is a sub).
Yet even when adversity strikes, sureties don’t expect to suffer a loss, as counter-intuitive as that might sound. That’s a feature of suretyship distinguishing it from insurance (for a handy, 1-page chart summarizing other distinctions, see page 6 of this 18-page surety primer by CNA Surety).
How do bonding companies seek to avoid losses on troubled construction projects? One of the most significant weapons in the surety’s loss-avoidance arsenal is the “general indemnity agreement” or GIA, an instrument that virtually every surety requires each bonded contractor, the contractor’s owners and the owners’ spouses to sign as a condition of surety credit extension. The GIA vests in the surety numerous rights and remedies against the corporate and individual indemnitors, which are typically triggered once trouble starts brewing.
Here are some of the key rights enjoyed by sureties under a typical GIA: