You're a Successful Target — Now What?

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

You’ve worked hard. You’ve built your brand and your business. You’ve taken prudent steps to protect it—registering trademarks, obtaining insurance coverage, and implementing important training and procedures to ensure safe, legal, ongoing operations. You may still be growing, but you are profitable and successful. You are proud of your business, and increase its visibility in the marketplace by putting its name and logo out there for all to see. Then an accident happens.

Maybe a customer is injured using your product. Maybe a company vehicle is involved in an automobile accident. Maybe a vendor—or employee—is injured on a jobsite. After the initial response of concern for those injured, a fear begins to well up in the back of your mind. What if my success has made me a target?

Regardless of whether justified, it is common for those injured to seek recovery when a company logo appears on the product, uniform, building, or vehicle involved. When an incident occurs, it is important to take appropriate action from the outset to protect your business and brand.

First, ensure anyone involved receives appropriate emergency treatment. Everything else can wait.

Next, begin to document everything you can. Take photographs of the scene before, during, and after any changes are made to it. Write down what happened if you witnessed it, or what others are telling you—and who said it—if you didn’t. Take down the names and contact information of any other witnesses, as well as any first responders who are present. These will be important people to be able to reach should a claim or lawsuit ensue.

Immediately report the incident to your insurer, who will have a process to work through as the investigation proceeds. In the days that follow, ensure that everything related to the incident is retained—emails, reports, witness statements, or other documents. Instruct your staff in this regard, and establish a central repository for collection of any related materials. If a lawsuit arises, you could be responsible for any information you did not secure.

Consider whether to retain counsel in advance of litigation. Many times an injured party’s attorney will issue harsh demands quickly. While your insurer may defend you in a lawsuit, you may need to seek legal counsel before a lawsuit is filed or before your insurer has completed its investigation process. While some claims are resolved pre-litigation, involving litigation counsel early can be helpful in that someone is guiding the process with an eye toward how each development will affect a lawsuit down the road. 

Finally, keep calm. When it’s your business, that you’ve built, it’s difficult. It’s personal. But letting that show through will only escalate the situation. Instead, keep doing what you’ve always done: protect your brand and business.

Mark Killingsworth