These quick and easy tips could help you minimise your risks and even avoid any claims:
Keep notes and work to a brief
If you work with corporate or business clients as a consultant, we see a lot of claims where there is some ambiguity about the work that should be carried out. Often, any confusion can be avoided by working to a detailed brief.
If a client is unwilling to provide a detailed brief for you, there is nothing to stop you preparing one, and sending it back to them for their approval. That way, you are still working to an agreed brief and if the client changes their mind later on, or realises that they have made a mistake, they are less likely to be able to pin the blame on you.
It is equally important to make notes of any subsequent conversations you have with clients, be it by phone or face to face. Anything that’s not in writing could be construed in any number of ways by your client. So although you may feel a bit of a ‘jobsworth’ by putting everything in writing, it’s important to consider the risks of leaving things up in the air.
Keep your place of work tidyThere are plenty of good reasons to do this already, such as presenting a professional image, but it can also have implications for the safety of your clients when they visit you.
If a client tripped over a briefcase you’ve left lying around or injured themselves in any other way whilst meeting you on business, you could be held liable for their injuries and any other costs such as loss of income.
If the worst should happen, it is worth taking down as many details as you can immediately while they are fresh in your mind, and maybe even take a photo of the scene and cause of any accident, as this could help to defend a claim.
Be mindful of copyright
A lot of clients we speak to are surprised when we tell them that breach of copyright is the cause of a lot of claims. If you use any photography or text on your website or within promotional material, you should be very careful to ensure that they are not subject to any copyright or licence agreements.
It’s easy to copy and paste photos you find on other websites to use on your own, but it’s equally easy for the owner of those photos to track you down if you use their photos without their permission. Google Images is one way that people can easily track down illegal use of their photos.It’s equally easy to track down unlicenced use of text on your site, through websites such as ‘Copyscape’, which scans the content of websites and quickly shows up any websites with substantially similar text on them.
Good quality stock images are cheaply available online nowadays, so a professional looking website or printed document can be produced cheaply without leaving yourself open to a compensation claim.
Most clients seem aware of the need for client confidentiality, but we do still see claims where confidentiality has been breached unintentionally.
If you do see clients who you also know on a personal level, it’s important to keep clear boundaries between your work and personal relationships. Anything that clients disclose to you in your professional capacity must be treated as confidential, and if you chat informally with a mutual friend about your client, it’s important to make sure that conversation doesn’t stray in to any of these confidential areas.
Avoiding claims is best for all concerned. Defending them is difficult, stressful and time consuming, as well as being expensive.
Remember that claims are very rare and that you should not let the fear of a claim hinder the way that you practice. Considering the above few points could make the chances of a claim even more remote, which in the long run will help protect the credibility of your profession.