Small claims and innocent circumstances can have a negative effect on your nonprofit. In all of our discussions about the big insurance picture and the big claims sometimes we forget to talk about the small claims and what can be done.
And, any discussion of insurance for nonprofits needs to include a discussion of risk management as well. If you can avoid having a claim in the first place then all the better. A short review of two typical types of claims might help to refresh awareness of some of the things that can be done to avoid risk.
OOPS! Slip & Fall Claims
We’ve all seen hundreds of commercials on TV for “personal injury” lawyers offing to help you with your slip and fall claims. If you haven’t a simple google search for “slip and fall claims” reveals hundreds of hits for lawyers. I think that’s a bit sad, but that’s beside the point…
The simple truth is that people slip and fall all the time. It may be because they aren’t paying attention or it may be because they are klutzy, or it may be because there are unrepaired hazards at your place of operations. Whatever the circumstance you can be held legally responsible for an injury due to someone falling and hurting themselves at your premises. And even if you aren’t responsible you can still get sued!
Real Life Claim: A nonprofit was sued by a woman who was walking out of their thrift shop and fell. Her arms were full, and a volunteer was holding the door open for her. She made a wrong step and tripped on the threshold. She claimed that because the volunteer was holding the door open she was unable to hold onto the door handle for stability. The nonprofit insurance company settled the claim for $53,000.
What can be done?
Inspect your premises regularly. Pay close attention to loose carpet, cracked tiles, driveway hazards (ice, oil, etc.) and any other hazard that may cause a fall.
Make sure you have proper lighting. This would include outside the building in parking areas and walkways as well as the interior of the building in hallways, bathrooms, etc.
If you are not responsible for the maintenance, then make a written request to the responsible party to make the necessary repairs and upgrades.
Verify that your office and operations are set up in a way to provide clear pathways that are wide enough to maneuver around. Clear away boxes from isle ways.
Risk Management Tip: If someone does slip and fall take care of them immediately. Making someone feel cared for is the first step in preventing them from contacting a lawyer.
FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!
You would be surprised by how many fires happen every day. Yep, all those sirens you hear each day, many of those are firemen going to put out fires.
I really don’t like getting those calls from our clients. A fire, even a small one, can be devastating to a nonprofit organization. Often small nonprofits don’t buy property insurance because they don’t think their property (usually donated) is valuable enough to insure. But if it burned up they certainly would want it back…
Real Life Claim: A storage building owned by a community center burned to the ground. It was determined that a homeless man was using the building as a shelter and the fire was caused by a cigarette butt that was not extinguished correctly. The nonprofit insurance company paid $78,000 to clean up the fire debris and re-build the building.
What can be done?
Make sure kitchen areas are free from hazards. Plug appliances into surge protectors. Turn off the coffee pot before leaving for the day. Keep power cords away from water.
Keep storage closets and sheds and surrounding areas clean and organized. Make sure there are no chemicals stored in closed areas. Keep paper and boxes away from heater and air-conditioning systems as well as away from electronics to avoid ignition from sparks and heat.
Maintain security. Keep all closets and buildings locked as practical. Hire security if your nonprofit is located in a high risk area.
Risk Management Tip: Ask your local fire department to send an off duty fireman/firewoman over to inspect your premises and make suggestions for a safer environment.
Sometimes just a small adjustment or a small repair can help you avoid a disaster.