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When to make a professional indemnity insurance claim


Creative Commons a man on a phone, thinking hard by photoloni_Flickr

Foresight is a wonderful thing

Obviously, you’re a professional professional. A conscientious person who takes both your work and your reputation seriously.

You have good relationships with your clients and, even though you bought professional indemnity insurance, you don’t really think you need it. You’ve never had a problem before, after all.

But your clients prefer you to have it and so you figure a cheap policy won’t hurt. If nothing else, it's another box ticked.

Sound familiar?

Hidden in plain sight

Often, it’s easy to miss what’s right under your nose.

Your policy isn't just a neat certificate and a Direct Debit. Without wishing to sound hyperbolic, many people buy professional indemnity insurance without realising the potential business-saving benefit they have.

The fact is that it can make all the difference at exactly the time when you need it most. If things take a turn for the worse, having the financial might of a big insurer and their team of expert solicitors on your side can’t be sniffed at.

Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on all that already-paid-for assistance just because you didn’t know when – or if – you should pick up the phone?

Should I, shouldn’t I?

To make the most of your policy (and to make sure you’re covered) you need to recognise a claim's warning signs and be aware of potential problems.

After all, your insurance isn’t just there for when there’s an actual, confirmed claim against you. You can still make use of your insurer’s expertise even if a client is just pointing a finger.

So, to be on the safe side, you should contact your broker or insurer the moment you’re aware of:

  • A shortcoming or mistake in your work that’s likely to lead to a claim against you – especially one you know about but your client doesn’t (yet).
  • A criticism of your work. Even if you think it's not justified it could still lead to a claim.
  • An idle threat. Throwaway remarks seemingly made in passing or in the heat of the moment by your client could indicate intent to sue later.
  • A persistent or recurring complaint about your work.
  • A client’s refusal to pay. Genuinely delayed payments are one thing; a client withholding your fee because they’re not happy with your work is something else.
  • A suspicion that a partner, director, employee or self-employed freelancer has been dishonest (because professional indemnity insurance isn’t just for your mistakes).

Time is of the essence. You're obliged under the terms of your insurance to notify your insurer (or broker) promptly if there's a claim. Late notification is a common reason for insurers to reject claims and the longer things go on without their input, the more they’re within their rights not to help.

You won’t be penalised or judged if you do call. Professional indemnity insurers don’t (always) mind paying claims – it makes them look good. It’s better for their reputation to be seen as helpful and fair rather than awkward and stingy.

So don’t delay. If you think you have a problem with a client and it can’t be solved amicably, speak to someone who knows, as soon as you can.

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