Accidents can happen any time. Fortunately, General Liability Insurance can cover some of the mishaps that can strap your small business. For example, say you own a coffee shop, and a child spills hot cocoa on the floor. Before you can even fetch a mop, a businessman slips and falls on the puddle of cocoa. He appears to be okay and waves off your concern and offer of first aid. You forget about the incident until one week later – the same man who fell on your wet floor is filing a lawsuit against your coffee shop over his injuries.
When the unexpected happens, what are you expected to do? Follow these five steps to file a claim on your General Liability Insurance policy.
1. Contact your insurance agent or provider.
As soon as an accident happens, you should contact your insurance broker. Often, they will recommend that you contact your insurance provider even if you haven't been sued yet. Advanced notice makes it easier to investigate and resolve the claim. Plus, every state has its own statute of limitations, so there’s always the possibility that a past accident can come back to haunt you, even months or years later.
2. Collect the details and review your policy.
Keep that General Liability Insurance information handy to review your coverage, even if you’re familiar with your policy. All the pertinent details are on your certificate of liability insurance. Your insurance provider will need to know…
- Your name.
- Current contact info.
- Business name.
- Policy number and type of coverage.
- Description of claim.
Again, time is of the essence here. Your insurance provider will want to know when your first learned about the incident because it can affect the terms of your coverage. Set aside funds for your General Liability policy’s deductible in case you do need to file a claim.
3. Ask questions.
If you don’t know the answer to something, ask the insurance provider representative who is handling your case. You may want to ask the following:
- Are there time constraints for filing the claim?
- What’s covered under the policy?
- Is this particular incident covered?
- What are my options if a lawsuit is filed?
- What’s the best way to get in touch with the agent working on the claim?
- When should I expect a follow-up?
Though your insurance agent doesn't actually handle claims, they are still a good resource during the process. Consider following up with them if you need a more in-depth explanation.
4. Keep detailed records.
Meticulous records are evidence of your activities and actions. Write down any communication you have with the injured customer, including any…
- Phone calls.
- Face-to-face conversations.
Do the same with any communications between you and your insurer. Get things in writing, and note when you contacted your provider and what you discussed. If your insurer requests copies of anything, keep a copy for yourself, too.
5. Weigh your options.
If you end up facing a lawsuit, you should prepare for different scenarios. Your insurance provider might recommend one of the following courses of action:
- Answer the claim. You either admit to or deny the allegations of the claim and explain why.
- Try to dismiss the claim. The lawsuit may be frivolous and your lawyer will seek to have it dismissed.
- Settle the claim. To avoid the expensive litigation process, your insurer may want you to reach a settlement out of court with the client.
As always, if you have questions about what your General Liability policy can do or what you need to do in the event of a claim, feel free to talk to your insurance agent. Not sure where to start? Check out the article "7 Questions to Ask Your Insurance Agent about Your Commercial General Liability Coverage."