It’s one of a business owner’s worst nightmares. A customer is injured while visiting your store or office. It can be easy to panic, and even easier to take immediate responsibility or blame. Few people want to see somebody get hurt, and the reflex is always to apologize. However, it is vital to stay calm and follow proper procedures, including getting help if needed, and filing an incident report.
So, what should you do if somebody is injured? When it’s an employee, you know worker’s comp will take care of it. A customer can be a different matter. Here are some simple steps you should follow:
Check to see if you should call emergency personnel.
If the customer is unconscious, you should call an ambulance. If they are not, then you need to ask them first. It is fine to have an employee help them up and you can also ask if you can call somebody to come get them. If they do seek medical attention, make sure that you exchange contact details. It can sometimes save money to try and send them to a nearby urgent care over the emergency room, but make sure you know that the urgent care is competent. The most common injury is likely to be a slip and fall. For minor injuries, it may be worth simply offering to pay their medical bills, especially if it’s a small amount that you can pay without going to your insurer and risking your premiums going up, but make sure you don’t admit you were at fault.
Fill out an incident report.
There should be forms readily accessible to all employees. The form should include their name and contact information, where the accident happened, what contributed to it, and where they are seeking medical help. Add a photo of the fall site, which will help you prove that there was no negligence. Employees should be told to also call you immediately. Check regularly to make sure employees can find the incident report forms and know how to properly fill them out.
Apologize, but don’t admit fault.
“We are sorry this happened” is a good way to do so. Never admit that you knew there was a problem ahead of time, even if you did. Do promise to fix the offending issue as quickly as possible. You need to make sure you don’t say anything that could be taken as admitting responsibility. Although you are still liable for injuries to customers, if they can prove negligence they can claim much more in the way of damages, and also do a lot of damage to your reputation.
Call your liability insurance company and your attorney right away.
Refer any questions to your lawyer so they can give appropriate answers. Unless you are very confident that you can buy the customer off without filing an insurance claim, you need to do so quickly. Make sure a copy of the incident report and any photos is available to both your insurance agent and your lawyer.
Don’t say anything to the media, the police, or the customer’s attorney…
…without consulting with your attorney first. This includes saying anything on social media other than to offer to talk to a customer privately. In some cases, they may not report the injury until they left the store and it may come up on social media or in a bad review.
Fix conditions immediately before anyone else gets hurt…
…assuming conditions at your place of business did in fact contribute to the injury. Make sure to go over what happened with any employees who are involved so they can better keep it from happening again. An incident report can really help here. However, avoid making any public statements, even if it’s obviously your fault; a lawyer can use them against you.
If you have had somebody injured on your property, you need good legal advice to help defend yourself from – or better yet, avoid – a lawsuit. For a free consultation, contact Dungan & LeFevre today.
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