3 Best Practices When an Incident Occurs in Your Municipality
You know exactly what I mean when I say, “incidents within a municipality are NEVER clear-cut.”
From a trip and fall injury on a village sidewalk to the breakage of a city pipe leading to sewage backing up into homes, there’s no such thing as a simple incident. There are conflicting priorities: the city always wants to do the right thing for their citizens, however, they don’t want to and can’t afford to use taxpayers’ money for every injury or damage within a community. To help balance these priorities, we’ll talk about some best practices to apply immediately after an incident occurs.
1. Acknowledge the incident
Municipal personnel should immediately acknowledge the incident and listen to affected parties to gather information and document (pictures, written notes, etc.). While doing this, it’s important to NOT admit guilt or commit to the payment of any incident costs. Doing this may put unnecessary liability on the municipality.
City officials and employees are public servants so naturally, they want to rectify the situation for residents. However, the best way to provide immediate help is to show empathy and listen before moving forward with a possible solution.
2. Engage the necessary support
The municipality should engage those who support the affected individuals, companies and the municipality itself. To mitigate the damage and/or injury, the municipality may need to engage their own insurance company, public works department or other utility entities. In some emergent cases, the municipality should instruct the injured parties to contact those companies directly.
In the example of sewage backing up into a home, the homeowner will need to quickly mitigate the damage. The municipality should provide contact information to a few different restoration companies and suggest the homeowner file a claim under their homeowner’s policy. This way, the resident receives immediate assistance and the insurance company can sort out who is liable for the incident. Also note, the municipality should NOT dispatch the restoration companies themselves. The homeowner should select a vendor and initiate these services.
3. Communicate frequently through proper channels
While the incident is being mitigated, managed and costs are incurred, it’s important to communicate with the stakeholders what’s happening and why. Sometimes this communication should come directly from the municipality and other times it should come from elsewhere.
Back to our sewage backup incident – if sewage backs up into homes, tort immunity may apply in which case the municipality isn’t liable for damages. It can be difficult and complex to explain to a resident that a city pipe broke, however, the city isn’t liable for damages. As the claim is being processed by the insurance company this information is best communicated through them. This tells the citizens that the government is supporting them in a tough situation, however, there are factors outside of the municipalities control which determine liability.
All incidents that occur in a municipality will have some level of stress. Knowing these best practices will prepare public servants for the best solution when incidents occur.
Contact us to learn more on how to minimize risk!
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- Liability E-Book
- Insurance Requirements for Public Entities…What Are Those?
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