Injuries are an unfortunate part of construction. Whether it is an injured worker or just someone passing through, injuries can have a devastating impact on contractors. After dealing with the immediate medical needs, the contract must turn its attention to legal concerns.
1. Document the Injury
It is a good practice to have witnesses to the accident that caused the injury fill out accident reports. Get basic contact information for the witness and have them put a statement in writing. A copy of the accident report should be kept on file for at least three years after the injury.
2. Put Your Insurance Carrier On Notice
You bought that insurance policy for a reason - now its time to pull it out and put it to use. If you don't have a copy, contact your broker or the insurer directly. Every policy has a notice section, look at it and make sure you comply with it exactly. Notice should always be in writing and at least one copy of the letter should be sent via certified mail or any other means that allows you to confirm receipt. Notice is a very important aspect of submitting a claim to your insurer so, if possible, have your attorney or broker submit the claim for you. Do not wait until you are served with a complaint to put your carrier on notice. Notice should happen within a few days of the injury.
3. Follow Up With Your Insurance Carrier
After you send the written notice to the carrier, follow up with a phone call in about 7 days. Confirm that the carrier has received the claim and try to get your claim number. Write the claim number down and write down the name of the person that you spoke to. If a claims examiner or adjuster has been assigned, get that persons contact information and write it down.
4. Follow For A Coverage Position Letter
If no claim has been made against you, your carrier may not take a position with regards to whether there will be coverage. Anything that they send you should be keep in a safe place for at least 3 years from the time of the injury. Request that your carrier confirm all coverage matters in writing.
5. Notify Your Carrier If A Claim Is Made Against You
You may be served with a summons and complaint or you may just get a letter from an attorney advising that a claim is going to be filed. In either scenario, immediately notify your insurance carrier in writing (even if you already put them on notice of the injury). Again, follow up in 7 days as set forth in Step 3 above.
6. Request A Written Coverage Position Letter
Once you get the letter, read it carefully. It is a good idea to have your attorney or broker read it over. If the letter accepts the claim and the carrier agrees to defend you, simply follow their instructions. Your insurance carrier will assign you defense counsel and pay them directly. Cooperate with your insurer and defense counsel in handling the case. If the coverage letter does not accept coverage, immediately advise your broker and at that point it is strongly advisable to speak to an attorney.
7. What if My Carrier "Reserves Their Rights"
Sometimes insurance companies will make a "reservation of rights." Basically this means that they are going to defend you for the time being but that they reserve their right to withdraw at any time if they determine that it is not a covered loss. If your insurance company takes this position, you should immediately consult an attorney. In this scenario, under New York law you have the right to chose you own defense counsel (as opposed to accepting counsel appointed by the insurer) at your insurance carrier's cost.
When in doubt, contact your attorney. Vincent T. Pallaci and the law firm of Kushnick & Associates, P.C. represents contractors in actions against insurance companies that wrongly disclaim coverage. For more information visit us at http://www.nyconstructionlaw.com/ or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org