Britain is becoming a litigious society. Convenience Store Insurance's lead insurer Norwich Union dealt with 227 personal injury claims against small retailers worth £800,000 last year, compared with 50 claims in 2003 with a total value of just under £18,000. That's a rise in average claim value from £360 in 2003 to a whopping £3,520 in 2007.
But shops and shop staff are no more negligent than they used to be. People are just more aware of health and safety legislation, and with 'no win no fee' in place, they feel there's nothing to lose by having a punt at a claim.
A customer or member of staff harming themselves in your store can become a time-consuming and costly issue to resolve, and can have a significant impact on your business and its ability to trade. It is therefore important to ensure you have taken the correct steps to protect yourself through preventative measures as well as having the right insurance cover should the worse case happen and someone is injured.
Slips, trips and falls are the causes of most accidents in convenience stores, and the first step in managing the risk is to identify the hazards around the workplace - uneven floors, trailing cables, discarded packaging and areas that can be slippery due to spillage or wet weather, for example.
After establishing who might be harmed and how, steps should be taken to avoid or control the risks. Plan pedestrian routes and avoid overcrowding, choose suitable floor surfaces, ensure lighting levels are sufficient, and use signage or barriers for obstructions that cannot be moved.
Put up signs warning people of slippery surfaces - and position them so that no one will trip over them. Check floors regularly for loose finishes, holes, cracks or worn areas, and keep the place tidy. Objects left lying around can easily go unnoticed and cause a trip.
Norwich Union is currently handling a claim based on the negligence of a c-store after someone had washed the shop floor. The store had failed to put out the wet floor warning sign, and a customer came into the shop and slipped. They suffered a badly broken leg and also had to undergo remedial surgery due to the leg fracture beginning to heal in a misaligned way.
The claim centres around the negligence of the shop and its staff. With loss of earnings and future earnings taken into account, the potential payout liability will be about £150,000. If you fail to have insurance and ensure the right levels of cover, a claim like this could finish a business.
The Convenience Store Insurance scheme offers public liability cover to insure against any claim that may arise. Accidents may be trying, but need not be disastrous. While there are direct benefits to using a market leader like Norwich Union, SME Insurance Services - which operates the Convenience Store Insurance scheme - will check the market to ensure you get the best deal by reviewing a panel of insurers including AXA, RSA, MMA, Groupama and Zurich, as well as several specialist insurers who can cater for requirements outside the norm.
Ask the broker...
Convenience Store Insurance has already helped many readers find the right cover at the right price. Over the coming months we are offering you the opportunity to ask the broker insurance-related questions. The best will feature in Convenience Store and on the website - www.cstore-insurance.co.uk.
There will be a star question featured in the magazine on a regular basis, so call 0870 161 0864, or submit a question at www.cstore-insurance.co.uk.Q.
Do I need Employer Liability Insurance by law?
A. This depends on the type of company you are and the staff who work for you. If you are a family business and you employ only family members then Employer Liability is not compulsory. If you employ staff who are not related to you, Employer Liability is required by law. However, if you are a limited company Employer Liability is required by law regardless of whether your staff are family members because even the directors of the company are classed as employees. You will receive a certificate with our package policies for Employer Liability and this must be displayed in a prominent place in your shop and retained on file for 40 years.
Q. Are paper boys/girls covered under my insurance?
A. Providing they are delivering in connection with their job they are covered under your Employer Liability. Most policies will also extend to cover their possessions while they are out delivering as an additional cover.
Q. Do I need a certificate for Public Liability?
A. No certificates are issued by insurers for this, however you can see the details of this cover on your schedule.
Q. My shop keys have been stolen. Will I be covered for replacing the locks?
A. Most insurers will arrange for a locksmith to visit the premises to replace your locks following the theft of your keys (limits apply).
In the event of an accident you should do the following:
Record the details of the person injured, what happened, and the extent of the injury
Record details of any witnesses
If there is a trained first aider on the site, have them deal with the injury
If the injury is serious, call an ambulance
Never admit liability, whatever the circumstances
Phone your insurance company immediately and advise of a potential claim, giving as much detail as possible
Norwich Union's staff are trained to spot scams and fraudulent claims. It is really important that shopkeepers are extra vigilant when a customer injures themselves in their shop. Collecting as much information as possible is critical; CCTV is always useful to capture what has happened. Any potential witnesses the shopkeeper can get to substantiate what actually happened can also make a big difference.