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Protecting your business from Liability Claims

Protecting your business from Liability Claims

Businesses large and small are having to face the reality of a new working environment where they are responsible for protecting their staff, customers and members of the public from a new hazard. Of course, businesses have always held liability for protecting employees, customers and the wider public from risks which they are responsible for - The difference now is that, unfortunately, the source of the newest risk can be difficult to identify.

Of course, we are talking about Covid-19. There seems to be little worthy of discussion at the moment which is not in some way affected by it.

I recently came across a blog post, written by an online solicitor company entitled ‘Businesses not taking the appropriate care to prevent transmission of coronavirus to the public’. The main purpose of the post seemed to be to encourage people to get in touch if they felt that they had contracted the virus due to a business failing to take adequate care, leading to them becoming infected. Whether that was on public transport, a shop, office or elsewhere. The company could then look into whether there was a potential compensation claim.

These kind of opportunistic compensation claims are, of course, nothing new. However, the source of the risk is new – and still to an extent, quite an unknown. Whilst we are not yet such a litigious society as America, that does appear to be the direction of travel – after all, ‘where there’s blame, there’s a claim!’ How successful these kinds of claims will be still remains to be seen – however, if you are a business owner you would be wise to be cautious. Even if a claim were not successful, there would be a financial and time implication to defending it and, on top of the other pressures of trading during a pandemic, this is very probably time and money you would rather not waste.

So, how can you protect your business from Coronavirus related compensation claims?

From an insurance perspective, to defend a claim you would need to be able to demonstrate that you have taken all appropriate measures to mitigate risk.

This would include obvious measures like hand hygiene, mask wearing where appropriate, implementing and managing appropriate social distancing and rigorous cleaning. Make sure you are following the government’s Covid Secure guidelines appropriate to your business type and have properly briefed all staff members of these. If you have a premises which is open to customers, make sure that you are prominently displaying the requirements which they must follow in your place of business, as well as enforcing them if required.

You should ensure that any written Health and Safety Policies are updated to reflect new rules and expectations and that everyone is aware of the changes. Make sure that risk assessments have been carried out and circulated to all employees to read. A clear audit trail will enable you to prove that you have provided this new information and that it has been read and understood by your employees.

Of course, we are not advocating that people should not be able to submit claims against businesses who negligently fail to protect them. Hopefully, if businesses are adhering to the guidelines which have been laid out and have followed and documented the correct procedures it will be evident that they are doing everything they can to keep people safe. This, in itself, would hopefully make it less likely that they would encounter a problem in the first place.

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