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The PR implications of personal injury claims for businesses

by | Jul 15, 2021 | Public Relations

If you own a business, it’s critical that you take reasonable steps to guard against someone (whether they be an employee or customer) being injured as a result of your negligence.

This is simply a matter of ethics. While sometimes accidents may occur through no fault of your own, to the extent that you’re able to do so, you must limit the odds of people being injured on your property due to hazards that should have been addressed, people being injured because of an inherent design flaw in one of your products, etc.

Keep in mind that if your negligence does result in someone being injured, they could enlist the help of a personal injury attorney to pursue compensation for their medical bills and similar losses. Depending on the circumstances, the immediate financial consequences you might face if this were to happen may not necessarily be disastrous, as your insurer may actually be the party that pays out, but you also must consider how a personal injury claim could impact the business from a PR perspective. Additionally, you’ll still likely incur substantial legal fees if you decide to drag out the process instead of agreeing to provide a claimant with fair compensation from the start.

Ideally, no one will ever be injured due to your negligence. However, if they are, and they file a claim or lawsuit accordingly, there’s a chance members of your customer base will learn about the situation.

It’s easy to understand how this can impact your business’ reputation. For example, under premises liability laws, you must maintain your property and eliminate hazards to guard against slip and falls and similar accidents.

Maybe a customer is injured on your property because you failed to address a hazard in a timely manner. An example of this would be a customer slipping on ice in the parking lot long after a deicing agent should have been applied.

Others might learn of this incident. That’s of course more likely to occur if the injured party takes legal action, particularly if you and your insurer respond by trying to “lowball” the claimant instead of paying them what they deserve right away. Understandably, when customers are injured but aren’t provided with fast and fair compensation, they sometimes go to the press.

(Tip: While understandable, publicizing your case openly is typically not advisable as a claimant. If you are ever injured as a result of a business or organization’s negligence, behave according to the advice of your attorney, and resist the urge to air your grievances on social media or other platforms. Only your attorney can determine if publicizing the lawsuit would be prudent).

Other customers may hear of the circumstances and conclude that not only do you not take basic steps to ensure customer safety, but you’re also not willing to accept financial responsibility when your negligence does cause harm.

This can have a tremendous impact on long-term customer loyalty. Sometimes reputational damage resulting from a lawsuit even forces a business to close. Even the most talented PR expert may struggle to help your business overcome the setbacks of a personal injury lawsuit.

Again, your main reason for taking steps to prevent injury to customers or employees is a matter of ethics. You simply also need to keep in mind that claims and lawsuits have PR implications as well. If someone justifiably seeks compensation for losses that could have been avoided had you not been negligent, strongly consider working with your insurer to offer the claimant what they’re genuinely owed instead of forcing them to take you to court. The longer you drag the process out, the greater the harm to your reputation may be.

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Larry Alton
Larry Alton is a freelance tech and computer writer

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