It is vital that small businesses are aware of the risks associated with their activities – risks to which customers and the general public may be exposed. Business owners have a responsibility to mitigate these risks as far as is reasonably possible; there are certain health and safety standards that must be upheld, for example. Furthermore, an effective risk management strategy will help to guard against the possibility of an accident.
It is impossible, however, to eliminate risk entirely. Accidents do happen, and it is important that small businesses understand the steps that should be taken in the worst-case scenario.
Minimise the damage
Once an incident has occurred, it is important that you act quickly to prevent any further deterioration of the situation. For example, if the incident involves an injury, you should make sure that the injured party has received the relevant medical attention before taking any other action.
Keep a record
Keep a record of the nature of the incident, including statements of witnesses – these can prove invaluable if taken at the time of an incident when a recollection of events is still clear in the witness’s mind. If possible, take photographs of the area involved in the incident.
An injured person has three years from the date of injury to bring a claim, by which point witnesses are less reliable or may not be traceable.
Check your cover
When choosing a policy, you should ensure it covers you for your work, and that any exclusions don’t apply to you. Then, if you need to make a claim, you can be confident that everything is in place. Checking the exclusions prior to purchase is vital, as these clauses can cause problems when you come to defend a claim being made against you.
Contact your insurer
Your next step should be to get in touch with your business insurer. You will need to explain the details of the incident, and they will advise as to whether or not you are covered. It is vital that you act quickly, so that insurers can decide the best course of action, whether to appoint a loss adjuster or solicitor for example. You should notify your insurers of the incident, even if you think that the injured party will not claim against you.
Don’t admit blame
Don’t be tempted to offer compensation without first talking to your insurer. It may seem sensible to try to make the problem go away as soon as possible, but admitting to a fault at this stage is likely to render your insurer unable to effectively fight your corner. If a third party gets in contact regarding a compensation claim, you should pass it straight on to your insurer.
In the worst-case scenario, you may receive a summons or similar document from the third party’s solicitor. You should not respond to these directly; instead, forward all such correspondence to your insurer who will deal with it accordingly.
Finally, it is important that businesses learn from past mistakes. Once you have had an incident, you should ensure that you take adequate steps to prevent the same problems occurring again. Your insurer may impose post-loss improvements, which provide an opportunity to improve your business and avoid getting caught out again.