How to Avoid Claims and What to do When You Get One

Companies, large and small, and individuals get claims against them. It seems inevitable that after a passage of time nearly everyone will get a claim made against him, or his company, at some point. Claims are, in simple terms, when an individual or company has a difference of opinion as to what happened, whether someone or something was damaged, and who is responsible for that damage. What can individuals and companies alike to do help avoid claims?

If you or your company receives a claim, a person or entity, the “Claimant,” is contending that you or your company did something wrong, breached some recognized duty, and caused harm. Your position will be different from the claimant’s, as you, or your company, is likely to dispute the facts as they occurred; whether a duty was owed or breached; and, whether or not the claimant was damaged.

How can you possibly avoid receiving claims? Although there is no guaranteed method for avoiding claims entirely, you can assist your position considerably by documenting evidence along the way. To prevent clams, take regular photographs of a construction site, in case someone has an accident and contends that your company was negligent or improperly conducted its duties on the site. You will be able to show photographs of the work that you performed, the site in general, or perhaps lapses committed by other contractors.

To prevent claims, take photographs of an accident scene, a car wreck, a store or street where an accident occurred, a product created or delivered, or anything that may ultimately become the source of a claim. Photographic evidence may remove the guess-work of what happened. Photographic evidence may resolve the differences of opinion as to what a site looked like, or how events transpired to cause an accident or injury. Photographic evidence is invaluable to prove, or disprove, claims or suits where there is a dispute over what the site looked like, or what transpired.

To prevent claims, taking videos is even superior to photographs. Although it is impractical to take regular videos, if an accident occurs, or a site appears dangerous or in disorder, in anticipation of potential claims or suits, taking even a short video with a camera phone will greatly enhance your ability to prove the nature and existence of the condition as you saw it.

To prevent claims, document as much as possible. If a witness gives you a statement of what they saw, heard or did, even if they refuse to provide a written statement, write down what you heard, and who said it. Write it down as close in time to when you hear it, and include as many details as you can, like who said it; exactly what they said; who else heard what they said; where the conversation occurred; and, time, date and location of the statement.

If you are working on a construction site, keep daily logs of inspections, reports and visits by independent inspectors, if any. Document who was working in what area and what task they were performing. The more detail provided, the better able to refute, reduce or eliminate claims when and if they arise.

To prevent claims, keep a log or some clear documentation of the names and contact information of the people involved. Although heavy documentation is cumbersome and unrealistic, if an accident occurs, or a situation arises where you may anticipate that an accident or claim may arise, taking down the names and contact information of witnesses or involved parties will allow you, or your lawyer, to more easily contact people with knowledge of the events that precipitated the claim.

What do you do if, despite your best efforts at being careful, photographing and documenting scenes and individuals, you receive that dreaded claim or suit? If you have liability, automobile or appropriate insurance, immediately tender the claim to your insurance company or insurance agent. If you are unsure if the claim is covered, tender it regardless.

What if you want to resolve the claim without notifying your insurance, either because you are confident the claim is not covered or you are afraid it will adversely effect your insurance rates? Contact counsel to assist you. You will be navigating an arena you are not generally familiar with, and one where mistakes are easily made and may be costly.

Locating and consulting with an attorney who is familiar with the type of claim that you have received, that knows what defenses should be raised and knows how to minimize or defeat the claim, will best be able to assist you in either eliminating or resolving the claim. Before you meet with the attorney, write down everything that you can remember about the claim or the events that preceded it. Compile your photographs or records of the event or the individuals involved. In that manner, you can provide as much information, as quickly as possible to help resolve your claim.