Whether you are running a two-man grocery shop or a fifty strong supermarket, small businesses can readily become a victim of personal injury claims. Very few personal injury claims are legitimate. Most are born out of greed. As a result, workers or customers may sue a business for millions, even if the case is trivial.
Unfortunately, a personal injury claim not only makes your business suffer financially but also ruins your reputation resulting in long-term consequences. Though a personal injury claim can threaten your business, there are ways to prevent it from happening. However, sometimes when preventive measures fail, the next step is to handle it as efficiently as possible.
The following tips will help you in this regard.
Prevention Is Your Best Defense
When it comes to protecting your business against personal injury claims, prevention is your best line of defense. You can take several precautions to avoid accidents from happening in the first place. All the precautionary measures are worth the expense as the liability claim can cost you millions.
1. Provide Safety Training and Education
Safety training and education play a critical role in maintaining a safe work environment and keeping the likelihood of a personal injury claim to a minimum. Irrespective of how trivial the job is it is always better to show your employees how to go about it to avoid potential accidents.
- Provide safety equipment that employees may need such as gloves, helmets, goggles, and face masks among others.
- Make sure all the employees are aware of fire exits and emergency contact numbers, and the process to get out of the premises safely in the event of an emergency.
- Conduct fire drills and safety inspections regularly.
- Let them know about the health and safety guidelines in general. You will also need to pay attention to job-specific hazards and safety guidelines.
- Make sure to discuss safety and health-related issues in your weekly or monthly meetings. Address even seemingly trivial safety issues immediately.
2. Keep the Premises Clutter-Free
Another great way to prevent accidents is to keep the premises clutter-free. A cluttered workplace is one of the leading causes of slip and fall injuries at a workplace.
- Keep the work area free of obstacles and clutter, especially areas with heavy footfall.
- Never leave trash, garbage, or debris haphazardly lying around. You should have a predetermined disposal area to handle the trash.
- Decide where to keep things (especially hazardous material) so that employees can retrieve them quickly and safely when required.
- Store and dispose of flammable or hazardous chemicals
- Make sure to clean up any spills or leaks or puncture hazards such as nails and broken glass immediately.
- Limit the number of wires in the work area as well. Use cable ties and hideaways to keep all the cables safely tucked away.
3. Pay Attention to the Maintenance
Routine maintenance can also save your business from potential personal injury liabilities. A negligent business owner is more likely to lose a personal injury lawsuit compared to the one who does.
- Inspect all the vehicles (owned and operated by your business) regularly and carry out the necessary repairs. Check the oil, tire pressure, breaks, lights, and the amount of gas in the tank before driving a vehicle.
- Make sure to inspect personal protective equipment and tools regularly as well.
- Regular housekeeping is also necessary. However, if possible, try to get it done outside of usual business hours.
- During maintenance or housekeeping, seal off the area being worked on. You should also put up warning signs to alert everyone.
- Housekeeping is a long-term process. You should keep records, maintain a regular inspection schedule, and train employees to help sustain housekeeping. It will prove helpful in the court of law.
Get General Liability Insurance
Despite taking all the necessary precautions, accidents do happen. That’s why you need to invest in general liability insurance. It will provide coverage for those unfortunate accidents. Without it, you will be forced to pay the costs associated with such liability claims from your own pocket.
1. General Liability Insurance Coverage
Usually, it will cover the following:
- The costs of damage to a third-party’s property caused by you or your employee.
- Claims by third parties for bodily injuries including medical expenses.
- Claims of personal injury including libel or slander.
- Claims resulting from a third party’s copyright or trade slogan infringement.
- Covers the costs if you or your employee damages a client’s electronic property or digital data.
- Defense costs if you are sued.
- Business-related actions of your full-time employees and temporary staff.
However, it doesn’t cover employee workplace accidents and damage to your own property. You will need to get workers compensation insurance and commercial property insurance respectively to cover these liabilities.
2. Don’t Lose Your Liability Coverage
You may lose liability coverage if you fail to follow the guidelines given by the insurance provider. Consequently, finding a new insurance provider in future may become increasingly difficult. So, try not to lose your coverage.
- Always pay the insurance premium on time.
- Avoid intentionally harming your employees or consumers to create fraudulent personal injury claims.
- Always comply with corporate regulations and maintain a safe working environment as per the insurer’s guidelines.
- Don’t use company funds for personal needs.
Make sure to review your policy annually. Stay on top of the changes if any and take the necessary steps.
When the Accident Happens
As mentioned before, accidents will happen irrespective of all the precautions. In the event something does happen, you must be ready to handle it as a good employer.
1. Handle the Accident Properly
- The first thing you need to do is to safely remove the person from an accident area and make any dangerous conditions safe if possible.
- You can treat minor injuries with a first aid box. You are required by law to provide the workers with first-aid equipment and ensure everyone knows where to find it.
- However, if the accident leads to fatal injuries, call emergency medical services immediately.
- Make sure to record any grave injuries and incidents in a logbook. Get the statements from eyewitnesses if any.
- Write a detailed account of the accident and include the time, victim’s name and contact information, and date.
- Lastly, call your attorney to discuss the situation. They will tell you about the latest workplace safety laws and how they will affect your case. Don’t take any decision related to this incident without consulting your lawyer first.
2. Hire a Competent Lawyer
When an accident happens, as the business owner, you can never be too careful. So, hire a competent personal injury lawyer or contact your business lawyer immediately.
- From the first day your business opens, it is necessary to have an attorney as a standby legal contact.
- Always hire a local attorney that is intimately familiar with local laws and customs.
- However, the lawyer should also be an expert in the laws concerning your business liabilities. Do not hire a lawyer until you know more about their experience, clientele, and results.
- Make sure to obtain personal references form the local business community.
3. Know What You Say and Do
The longer a litigated claim lasts, the more expensive it becomes. So, your attorney will work closely with the claims examiner and the victim to resolve the case as early as possible. Though your lawyer will do all the legwork, you too need to take a few precautions.
- Don’t make any controversial or defamatory statements during the claims process, especially if the case goes to a trial. It will only weaken your chances to win.
- Never contact the victim or their lawyer on your own. Always let your attorney deal with the victim or their lawyer.
- Never fire an employee or penalize them for filing a personal injury lawsuit. If they are guilty, the court will deny the claim. But, getting into a fistfight with the victim will tarnish your reputation.
- Make sure to comply with the terms of settlement or verdict. If the victim was your employee, welcome them back as soon as they are physically fit to join the office.
- Keep all the records related to the accident and the claim in your safe custody.
Business owners have the responsibility to protect their employees and customers. Failure to fulfill this responsibility can lead to personal injury claims that may ruin your finances and reputation. Sometimes, however, accidents may happen on your business premises despite all the precautions. Hopefully, the above tips will help you understand how to prevent personal injury claims in the first place and what you should do if the worst happens.