As a business owner you should defend any claim against you. The main reason for this is that if you do not you will attract other claims as well because employees think they can get money for little or no reason. If the person claiming was genuinely injured it is likely you will already have continued to pay their salary and compensated them in some way for their loss.
To defend a claim you are advised to work with your insurance company and be totally open and honest with them so they can understand the circumstances and provide the best advice. You will need to advise the insurer as soon as you receive a letter and complete any forms they send to you e.g. a claim form. If you are waiting for information it is better to send back what you have and follow up with the missing information when it is available. Claims usually take many months to get resolved and the sooner you can provide any required information the sooner a resolution will be achieved.
Claims can usually be made up to three years following an accident. This quite lengthy timescale often works for the claimant as it often means that records aren't available and the people involved may have moved on. The claimant will allege the accident and resulting pain was caused by your company, but it is down to you to prove that it wasn't your fault, or those working on your behalf.
Unfortunately this is where a Health and Safety favourite is of paramount importance... paperwork! Paperwork is evidence; evidence that you did train the individual, they were aware of the correct procedures and they knew not to do something. Without evidence it is their word against yours and often the courts will side with the claimant as they were injured and your organisation caused it. The courts are likely to see your company as the bad guy as despite your best efforts, you allowed someone to get hurt... even if they caused it.
Although not always the case, if you defend a claim you are likely to reduce the chance of you or your insurance company having to settle. With the relatively recent increase in "no win, no fee" lawyers they do not want to spend time on claims that are not likely to win, hence if you respond via an insurance company they will possibly not progress it so much.
You cannot depend on just fighting a claim to stop them occurring. The better way is to prevent an accident happening in the first place and then you won't get any claim letters in the first place. You can't always stop accidents happening so the next best thing would be to fully investigate all appropriate accidents to gather information on what when wrong so you have the information if required, but more importantly that you can prevent it happening to someone else.
Nigel J Welford is a qualified Health & Safety professional and believes in making health and safety as simple as possible whilst still being effective and meeting all the regulations. For his free report "The Secret To How Health & Safety Can Improve Your Business And Profits: 7 Everyday Pitfalls To Avoid" from http://bit.ly/TI68sD
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