Insurance for all types of risk associated with your operations is essential. You will be insured for various risks, including:
- Employers’ liability claims: slips and trips in the workplace, lifting and handling accidents, industrial disease, stress at work and bullying/harassment
- Public liability claims by visitors to your premises, including contractors and sub-contractors
- Motor accident claims: for injury and vehicle damage, involving fleet vehicles, lorries and vans
- Property damage claims: flood, fire, subsidence, explosion and impact. We are able to offer an insurance backed recovery service where damage is caused by a third party. Claims made against you may give rise to a reputational risk (a serious incident could attract unwelcome adverse publicity).
You may have chosen to accept a large excess on your insurance policies. That means you pay the initial £X (X can be £1,000, or even in some cases £100,000 or more). That’s your money. Even if you have a very low, or no, insurance excess your claims history directly affects next year’s premium. Therefore you will always have an interest in how claims are dealt with, which are settled and which are defended.
Insurers however will dictate which firm of lawyers will handle your claim. That may be a firm at the other end of the country who know nothing about your business, and may not even take your views into account. The insurer will “sell” their panel lawyers as experts. They are undoubtedly experienced in claims handling, but for many insurers the panel is driven primarily by value, which in turn often means the lowest fees charged. If you change insurer next year, you will find your claims being handled by a different firm, perhaps from a different part of the country.
Can you do anything to influence which lawyers deal with your claims, and would that be in your interests?
With the help of your insurance broker, you can nominate your own lawyers. If the insurer values your business, and are satisfied that the lawyers are expert in claims handling, they will allow you to use them. The following examples demonstrate why you might be better off using a firm that you know and trust, who knows your business and looks after your interests:
- A company organised an annual public event on its land, and thousands of customers paid to visit. One elderly visitor fell and suffered a serious hip injury. The safety of the event was contracted to a well known safety expert, who had agreed to indemnify the company for any claims arising from its design of the event layout. The insurers felt that a court would have sympathy with the injured person and find in her favour. The company disputed this, so insurers sought advice from their appointed panel lawyers, who felt there was a risk of the claim being lost and doubted if the contractual indemnity would be upheld in court. The company sought advice from Bond Dickinson, and we advised that the claim should be defended, and that in any event the contractual indemnity would pass any liability to the contractor. The insurers subsequently changed their approach, denied liability and the claim was not pursued
- An accident at work involving a company’s employee. Our client vehemently denied that it was liable, and was worried about adverse publicity if the claim succeeded. The insurers feared a risk of the case being lost, so wanted to pay 50% of the claim value. We negotiated an agreement between client and the insurer that the insurer would pay 50% of the claim’s value if the claim succeeded at trial, and the client would pay the balance. The claim was successfully defended at trial and nothing had to be paid out
- Accident at work, with two employees being injured. The company wanted to defend the claims. Without seeking the company’s views, the insurer’s lawyers settled the claims.