If you have a car accident, the party at fault will most likely have insurance cover and if not an injured party may still be able to recover damages via the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, a government body who act in place of an insurer in circumstances where accidents are caused by either uninsured drivers or drivers who flee the scene of the accident and cannot be traced. Driving without insurance is a criminal offence so what are the penalties for a business that sells products or provides services where there is a risk of damage or injury who are not insured? Surprisingly there are no penalties as public liability insurance is not compulsory.
I am finding that I am regularly submitting claims on behalf of very injured claimants to companies who later admit to not having public liability insurance.
It is shocking that there are no regulations in place that require these businesses to carry insurance, especially those businesses where there is potential risk of a member of the public using the services subsequently becoming injured.
A well-known laser treatment provider who runs several salons in and around the London area was until recently operating without any public liability insurance. My client had unfortunately suffered a permanent facial scar following her first treatment session. The injury caused a great deal of anxiety, distress and a loss of confidence. An injury like this could be worth in excess of £10,000. The laser treatment company’s excuse was that they had simply forgotten to obtain insurance yet after receiving my client’s claim they decided to obtain insurance. It should not take someone being injured before companies take action.
Without public liability insurance cover, it can be more difficult and complex to pursue a claim for damages from the Defendant. In my experience, companies refuse to provide essential disclosure documents relevant to an injured client’s case or simply ignore correspondence. If the Defendant does not have the financial means to pay the Claimant their damages and legal costs the Claimant is left without any recourse and is ultimately in a quite hopeless position.
I recently acted on a case where my client was injured following use of a treatment patch claiming to have fat burning properties. A treatment patch causing weight loss would be a miracle come true however the patch caused an adverse skin reaction. Once again, the company did not have public liability insurance. After further research it transpired that other users of the product have had similar skin reactions. Unfortunately the company continues to sell the product and make profits without having any regard to the risk of injury they may be placing their customers in.
When you visit most public places such as restaurants or gyms you may notice a certificate of insurance is placed on the wall. I believe it would be very easy for any company selling products online to provide details of their insurers on their website. This would provide assurance to any customer purchasing products from the website that there would be insurance to protect them in the event of an unfortunate injury. With the shift towards online shopping in recent years how many people will be purchasing toys for example from lesser known retailers. Considering this gift is for a child would you be so keen to bag that bargain if you knew the company were not insured?
Regrettably, there is not an equivalent of the MIB for customers injured from the provision of negligent services or the use of unsafe products. This should not however deter an injured party reporting a company to their local trading standards office as their involvement can sometimes be the necessary trigger for a business to change their practice and reconsider the safety of their customers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforces the law in relation to employers’ liability insurance. If a company does not have employer’s liability insurance, it can be fined £2,500 for every day the company has operated without it. If you do not display the certificate of insurance or refuse to make it available to HSE inspectors when they ask, you can be fined up to £1000. One must question why there isn’t a parallel regime in place for public-facing and internet businesses. Vulnerable customers should have the benefit of a mandatory legal requirement for businesses to have public liability insurance. They deserve the same access to compensation as injured employees and victims of road traffic accidents.
By Usheena Patel, Personal Injury team