The Importance of Liability Insurance and Staying Alert!

Dean Landers, Landers Appliance

“We need insurance, but we also need body cams!”

Here are three situations reported by Rick Eisenman, owner of R&B Appliance, Delaware. Rick sent these to me after reading the article I wrote in the UASA newsletter about personal liability insurance. His concluding comment in his email was “We need insurance, but we also need body cams!” After reading his stories you will probably agree! Unfortunately his stories are not unique to his company or our industry. They are, however becoming much more common!

Story 1) How about the guy I had on a recent Monday afternoon that had a bad jazz board on a Whirlpool bottom freezer with a defrost failure. I took the refrigerator apart and thawed the evaporator, installed the jazz board and then programmed it. Low and behold he calls me the next morning to say his food hasn’t completely refrozen and he wants me to reimburse him for food loss. I told him that he did not have a warranty that covered food loss and that he should read his owner’s manual for further information and if he had questions to contact the manufacturer, although his refrigerator was 6 years old. He thanked me for my professionalism.

Story 2) I had a guy in the same neighborhood months earlier that put cardboard down before I arrived covering his wood floors so I wouldn’t damage them when I pulled his LG refrigerator out to change the control board. I told him that I had a floor guard and would not use cardboard. When I took the cardboard up (how did that happen?) the floor already had indentations from the rollers. SURPRISE!!!   I didn’t say anything about his attempt to hide the damage from me. I just asked him if it was okay if I snapped a couple of pictures for his file, and he agreed. I then continued and completed the work. 

Story 3) I had a customer that called me about his leaking refrigerator. I made the necessary repairs and left the house. I received a call back five days later after his wood floors dried up and buckled from the water damage. He wanted my insurance information so he could make a claim as if I had caused the damage. I told him to contact his insurance agent, and if they felt a need to subrogate they would take care of it. I also got his agent’s name and spoke with the agent. Turns out the agent’s mother is my customer. There was no liability on my part and they were already aware of his claim prior to my visit. They said he had a high deductible and was looking for other avenues to “assist” with the costs.

Here are a few things we can take away from Rick’s experience that can help us avoid insurance claims, paying deductibles, and incurring higher premiums:

  • Document, document, document!!!
  • Use a software system that time stamps the ticket (date, time and person).
  • Make detailed notes about the complaint, including brand name, product, and the specific complaint.
  • Record phone conversations. When the technician arrives, take pictures before and after any repairs.
  • If the product has to be moved, use proper moving techniques and floor protection products.
  • Double check all water and gas connections thoroughly.
  • Have the customer inspect any and all aspects of the appliance before and after the repair.
  • Write a detailed evaluation of the work that was completed and get the customer’s signature.
  • Have the customer sign a limited liability waiver before moving any appliance. Although waivers won’t (and shouldn’t) protect you from mistakes on your part, they will protect you from unavoidable damage claims due to factors beyond your control.
  • As a last resort, require the customer to move the appliance in order for you to gain access to diagnose or repair, even if it means you have to make a second trip at no additional charge to the customer.

These are changing times, demanding our full attention to insure our small businesses will survive unwarranted, frivolous accusations and claims. Be aware. As I stated in my last article, a growing number of customers are looking for someone to blame, regardless of whom or what is actually at fault.

Dean Landers,

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