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Public Liability Incidents & Claims: What to Do and What Not to Do
Today, businesses face a variety of risks. One of the most common and potentially expensive is public liability incidents and claims. Customers, visitors, or contractors can trip and fall or slip in the water or other liquid, resulting in sprains, broken bones, hospital costs and time off work.
Public liability insurance is specifically designed to protect you and the business from expensive legal costs, personal injury damages, and your business reputation.
Below are essentials of what to do and what not to do from the time of the incident/accident or if you receive a public liability claim from a law firm.
What is a Public Liability Claim?
A public liability claim is when a customer, visitor or contractor working for you or at your business is injured. You are either notified at the time of the injury (incident/ accident), such as a customer tripping over a box in an aisle, or you receive a letter from the injured person’s lawyer sometime after the accident happened.
An injured person can claim compensation for time off work, permanent injury, medical costs, home assistance or modifications, and legal costs. These can add up to thousands of dollars or millions if the person has severe permanent injuries.
For the business to be responsible, the injured person must first show that the business had a duty to ensure the person was not injured. Then, to prove that their injury was directly caused by the business failing to ensure the person’s safety.
Ensuring safety can be signs warning of a slippery floor, policies or procedures to train or induct new employees or contractors or other risk management measures.
What to Do if there’s an Incident or you Receive a Public Liability Claim
The first thing to do if there is an incident is to complete an Incident Report form. A free example can be found here SafeWork NSW Incident report form (https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/safety-starts-here/easywhs/reporting/template)
This will assist in recording information, including photos and attach statements from any witnesses, as events tend to be forgotten over time.
If you have a personal injury incident or receive a public liability claim, it’s best not to respond until you have spoken with your insurance adviser. Your adviser is a professional who will streamline the notification process and work with you to ensure the claim is correctly reported with supporting documents, and they will also advocate on your behalf.
The insurer will engage specialist public liability lawyers on your behalf, saving you time and money and paying any damages if you are found to be responsible.
What Not to Do if You Receive a Public Liability Claim
It’s crucial to remember that public liability incidents and claims can be extremely serious. Admitting to the injured person that your staff or something at the business caused the incident/ accident, such as a slippery floor, could result in delays or, worse, your insurer not paying the claim. This is because insurance policies always require that you don’t admit responsibility for the injury.
So, we recommend not apologising to the injured person, only providing necessary aid or calling an ambulance. In some states and territories, while apologising is ok, others look at an apology as admitting your responsibility (liability), even if the customer was later found to be fully or partly at fault.
Any subsequent correspondence or communication from the injured person asking for payment or their lawyers should be discussed with your insurance adviser first.
Your insurance adviser can guide you through the claim notification process and what you should do.
Many personal injury claims can either be avoided or the severity of the injury reduced. The number (frequency) of incidents can also often be reduced with improved risk management. Your insurance adviser is a professional who can assist you with reviewing or implementing a risk management program for your business.
Knowing what to do is as important as knowing what not to do in the event that a visitor, customer or contractor is injured at your business. Public Liability insurance protects you and your business from potentially high legal costs and expenses. It’s also worth noting that Workers’ Compensation provides insurance cover if an employee or some types of contractors are injured. Your insurance adviser can help you make the most of your insurance cover, contact us today to find out how.