It’s every business owner’s worst nightmare—a customer getting injured on the property. Maybe it’s due to a slippery floor or a technical malfunction, something caused by another customer, or a freak occurrence that no one could have prevented.
But for the business owner, it’s important to act quickly to protect both the customer’s health and the business from liability. The steps you take before, during, and after the crisis and how you protect your investment can have a major impact on your business’s reputation and how quickly you rebound from an on-site disaster.
The most significant factor in how an on-site injury turns out is settled long before the incident—namely, what kind of liability insurance you have. Your employees are covered under workers’ compensation, mandatory in most states, but injuries to bystanders and customers are not. That’s why you need a different kind of insurance to protect yourself—commercial general liability insurance.
Commonly shortened to CGL insurance, this coverage protects you from claims that your business caused bodily injury or other damage. Also known as general liability insurance, it covers your attorney and expert witness fees in the events of a trial, along with any costs for gathering evidence. Should your business settle or lose a court battle, it covers medical payments and judgments. This can save you time and money when an incident happens.
When an incident happens, the first step you should always offer any help needed. If a customer is injured, call an ambulance or any other authorities necessary and be prepared to offer first aid on-site. Preparing for this can mitigate medical emergencies and potentially reduce your liability.
All businesses should have a first-aid kit on hand for emergencies. Basic supplies should include bandages and ice packs to alleviate minor injuries and stop bleeding, but specialty businesses should also have antidotes and medical equipment, like owning an AED at a fitness facility. Check carefully that all your items are within their expiration window—while a first aid kit may not be necessary for a while, it should be fresh when called upon.
Once medical attention is provided, the next step to protect your business is to get all the relevant information you’ll need to provide to the authorities. If there are witnesses, attempt to get their information before they leave—although this can be tricky due to the fast-moving nature of businesses where people drift in and out.
Another important tool for collecting information is security footage. Installing security cameras in your store can be a useful loss-prevention tactic, but it can also help protect you from liability. If there is a technical or safety element involved in the injury, it may help to bring in an expert to analyze your store for any safety issues.
Hire an Attorney
While most on-site injuries never result in a court case, either due to a no-fault case or a minor incident, the worst-case scenario for a business is a lawsuit. This is why it’s important to get in contact with an attorney for at least a consultation. Many businesses employ a personal lawyer, but small businesses should look for an attorney with experience in injury-related court cases.
Losing a lawsuit can be costly, both in money and in reputation. While an insured business will likely have its losses covered by the insurance firm, this could result in a sizable hike in insurance rates. A single lawsuit undoes many uninsured businesses. Just as significantly, the lawsuit could damage your business’ image, especially if it’s publicized enough that it shows up in Google searches.
If your business contributed to the injury based on an unsafe location, addressing this before any court case or settlement may be looked favorably upon. It doesn’t take much to cause an accident. Something as simple as a slightly uneven step, a floor that was over-waxed or not mopped properly, or a staircase without handrails can lead to an injury.
Not every case like this is an immediate liability for the business, but addressing the issue will show your business’s commitment to a safe space for customers. Not only will it reduce your potential liability, but it’ll show customers you care and pave the way for good reviews.
Ultimately, every business hopes for a clear safety record. However, no matter how many precautions you take, a customer could get injured at any time. Taking these simple steps not only protects your customers, but it also protects your investment.