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Winter is Here. Is Your Business Protected?: Part 2

Winter is here. And that means winter weather can cause headaches for business owners no matter where they’re located as they try to keep their properties as safe as possible for employees and customers.

But, Accidents DO Happen

Try as you might to prevent an employee or customer from being injured due to a slip, trip, or fall, accidents do happen, and sometimes people get hurt. You obviously never want to see someone injured, especially at your business, but injuries that do occur could seriously threaten the financial status and reputation of your business.

What do you do, then, if an employee gets hurt on the job or a customer gets injured while on your premises? Simply said, you need Workers’ Compensation insurance and General Liability insurance.

  • Workers’ Compensation insurance will pay employees who are injured on the job while they recover, or in more serious situations, for an extended period of time.
  • General Liability insurance protects your business from claims of personal injury that happen at your business.

What to do if Someone is Injured on Your Business’s Property

Oftentimes an accident is just that—an accident with no liability. However, should an employee or customer be injured while on your property, depending on the circumstances, you could be held liable. Your actions during the hours and days following an injury to someone on your property are critical to protecting you from liability.

Regardless who is injured, the first thing you must do is get medical care for the individual. Failure to seek immediate, proper medical treatment is one of the easiest ways to run afoul with the law.

Don’t be fooled when assessing the injured person’s condition. What may appear minor could very well turn into an emergency quickly. Err on the side of caution. If the injury is indeed a minor one, encourage the person to follow up with their health care provider.

The worst thing you can do is ignore the injury.

What to do if an Employee is Injured on the Job

Be sure to instruct your employees about what to do in the event of a workplace injury to themselves or others. They should be report injuries immediately.

Make sure the employee has all the information they need in order to file a workers’ compensation claim.

  1. Provide the employee with a claim form as soon as possible.
  2. Report the injury to your workers’ comp insurance agent.
  3. Perform an internal investigation to determine exactly how the employee was injured. Talk with the injured employee first, then visit with anyone who witnessed the incident. You’ll need to understand what happened and how in cases you’ll need to defend yourself in the event of a claim.
  4. Complete an Employer’s Report of Accident, as required. The report provides you the opportunity to record the details of the incident, your side of the story, and to include evidence such as photos, videos, and witness statements.
  5. Submit the report to the insurance carrier who will determine whether workers’ compensation should be awarded to the injured employee. Be sure to monitor the progress of the claim—many employers make the mistake of not following up.

What to do if a Customer is Injured at Your Place of Business

Your first priority if a customer is injured on your premises is the same as if an employee is hurt—get medical attention for the person immediately.

It’s what you don’t do before a customer is hurt at your place of business that could make you liable. Neglecting a potential hazard – such as an icy front entrance or a snow-covered sidewalk that could lead to a customer slipping and falling – could find you facing liability. By laying salt down on the entrance or shoveling the sidewalk, you’re at least trying to protect your customers from harm.

Should the unfortunate occur and a customer is injured:

  1. Again, get medical attention for the customer immediately.
  2. If possible, interview the customer and any witnesses to determine what exactly happened. Document what each tells you.
  3. Inspect the scene and document in writing and photos what you find. Your documentation will help should you be taken to court and help you protect other customer and employees by correcting the problem.
  4. Contact your insurer who will assume the responsibility of contacting the customer and handling their claim.

Should the customer choose to file a lawsuit rather than deal with insurance, you’ll need to work with both your insurer and attorney to deal with the situation.

Conclusion

Winter weather is unpredictable at best, and with it comes particular risks for your business, regardless of location. By being proactive and diligent, you can take certain steps to mitigate those risks to your employees and customers. Understanding the exposures your business has allows you to have an educated discussion with your insurance agent, who can provide you with the most competitive rates in your area.

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