How to avoid the slips and trips of liability claims

  • Public liability is the main area of concern for many charities
  • An injury case could potentially cause major reputational damage to a charity
  • Good risk management practices can reduce the chances of an accident

Charities, like any other business, are vulnerable to liability claims, with an increasing number of ‘slips and trips’ directed at charitable firms, highlighting the continued importance for strong health and safety practices.

In 2011, a survey of 190 UK charities by independent research company FWD, revealed that despite continued pressure on funding, caused by much publicised grant cuts and reduced donations, public liability remains the major area of concern.

Over a third of charities said they were interested in receiving risk management advice to help reduce liability risks, while this figure rose to 43% among smaller charities.

Risk vs. reputational damage

If a member of the public was involved in a slip or a trip on land owned by a charity, it could result in significant financial and reputational loss. A court could order the charity to pay for any damages sustained, as well as legal costs. Even if the charity was found not to be liable for the incident, the time taken to deal with the complaint, and worry caused to staff, could greatly affect smaller charities in particular.

In 2014 a claim against the Dover Roman Painted House Trust and Dover District Council was rejected by the High Court. The High Court ruled the claimant, who was injured after falling over a wall, was a trespasser in law, and rejected a claim that the site was dangerous.

The charity said it was “delighted” with the result, but its founder had suffered “many stressful days”.

Taking action

Charities can help avoid claims, and be better equipped to defend themselves if they occur, by regular staff training.

Charitable organisations also need to work with their insurer to ensure they have practical support in managing risk, such as traditional risk transfer products. They should also receive risk management guidance on areas including occupational health and safety, business continuity, the legal and regulatory environment and crisis management.

The potential impact of damage to an organisation’s reputation in the event of an accident cannot be underestimated. If the customer took legal action then it could severely affect the public’s perception of a charity and determine if someone decides to make a donation or not, or whether they want to contribute their time as a volunteer.

Supported by experienced underwriting, claims and risk experts, Zurich offers a comprehensive solution to these organisations.