Whether you are a new business just starting out or an established firm thinking of changing insurance companies, we have some advice for you.
First of all, be sure to shop around and choose an insurance company with policies tailored for builders’ merchants. These should include – but are not restricted to – Employers Liability Insurance (in case an employee is injured on your premises), Public Liability Insurance (if a member of the public is injured on your premises), Wholesaler Insurance to cover your stock, Business Contents insurance to cover plant and machinery, and finally Motor Fleet Insurance to cover all your commercial vehicles.
Once you have decided on the right insurance firm for you, ask about the legal representation they will offer you in the event of legal action taken against you. If an accident or fatality is found to be your fault, then you will need a lawyer experienced in Health & Safety Law.
Be aware that an insurance broker could say that by taking the policy, you have to use one of the insurance firm’s lawyers to represent you in the event of legal action being taken against you. It is not unusual for them to deny you insurance cover if you do not accept these terms, but Article 6 of the Insurance Companies (Legal Expenses Insurance) Regulations 1990 states that when a lawyer is needed to “to defend, represent or serve the interest of the insured in any inquiry or proceedings, the insured shall be free to choose that lawyer”.
It is clear that it is your legal right to choose the lawyer you want to represent you. Some brokers will come back to you and say they agree and accept those terms, but they will only pay legal fees equal to the amount it would have cost them if their own lawyer was representing you. They are quite within their legal rights to do so.
Be clear on the policies and rights being offered to you before taking out cover and discuss all the details of what would happen in the event of a claim being made against you, so that if a health and safety issue does arise, it will be one less thing to worry about.
Southall Associates is a health and safety consultancy that works with merchants.