Your business is new but doing brilliantly, so you’ve taken the big step of hiring people, you’ve got an office, a break room and are handling being a boss better than you ever anticipated. But you’ve been lax on some of the more intimidating bits of the business, like health and safety, and now someone’s tripped and hurt themselves. It’s a worst case scenario for new business owners, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your entrepreneurial future; following a simple set of procedures will be your saving grace.
The first thing you need to ensure is that you have business insurance that also includes liability insurance. In most countries you legally have to have this, so we shouldn’t have to cover this as a basic fact, but many believe they can get away not being insured – right up to the point they can’t anymore. Let’s be straight about this, not having insurance can mean legal action against you or your business by local authorities, who might decide an accident and being so careless as to not insure yourself mean you can no longer operate. Another reason to have insurance is because it can pay for legal costs and quite often the cost of any compensation you may be due to pay. Why leave yourself unprotected when it’s so easy to cover it all off?
If a serious accident does occur within your business, an investigation will be carried out. In the UK this can be done by the health and safety officer in your business and doing so can show a court you are complying and have a good attitude towards health and safety. The main thing to remember about investigations is to be honest and to learn from them. You may find in the course of your investigation that you were at fault, but do not try to cover up any mishandlings of health and safety as this could lead to fines or penalties, as well as not doing you any favours if you’ve got a lawsuit to handle.
If an accident occurs where an employee is seriously hurt, a claim is quite likely to come out of it. In most cases these will be settled out of court, but sometimes because of unusual circumstances or neither party wanting to compromise on their position, a case might go to court. You might then be interviewed as part of the proceedings; whatever happens in your interview, don’t get riled up or, on the other end of the scale, too apologetic, as either could harm your position. Remember that facts are what you need to focus on, and as mentioned above, covering things up can have serious consequences.
We are getting rather doom and gloom about, but in reality, there’s no need to be. A lawsuit doesn’t mean the end for your business and investigations can also reveal employees can be partly (or wholly) responsible for their injury. This is what’s known as contributory negligence, and essentially means that your business was negligent and didn’t carry out their duties, but neither do your employee, so you are both partly to blame. Sometimes, coming to an agreement of just how responsible each party is for the accident is what is most difficult about a case, but is important as contributory negligence is often calculated as a percentage, which is then removed from the final compensation amount. It’s easy to see why it would be hard to agree…
Now for the final truth about industrial injury claims – whatever the outcome of a lawsuit, you must bear in mind that you can’t treat your employee differently because of it. If they stay in your employment, you can’t force them to leave, sack them without reason or contribute to a negative work environment, as you’ll just be opening yourself up to an employment lawsuit on top of the work accident law suit you just dealt with. it’s really not worth it and let face it holding any kind of grudge for the long-term just isn’t healthy anyway. Learning from your mistakes is the best way to move past what happened, but hopefully, with our advice, you won’t have to deal with an accident or a lawsuit to begin with.