Liability and Risk Management for Elected Officials

Presenters from the Municipal Insurance Association of B.C. described the risks and consequences of local government liability exposure and offered valuable advice on how elected officials can to avoid placing themselves, their boards and councils in these circumstances.

Settlement costs from liability and property claims are just the tip of the iceberg, as legal costs, lost time, and high stress are also inevitable when misstatements or misbehaviour are alleged. Claims may be denied or settled, but in both cases the process of discovery and trial can take years and damage personal health and reputations.

The presentation provided legal definitions of negligent misrepresentation, defamation and misfeasance and many examples of how these situations arise. “Every time elected officials speak to members of the public, there is some financial interest or outcome at stake,” said Lindsay Nilsson, MIABC director of Claims and Legal Services. Conversations can become the basis of claims if something is said or written that is proved in law to have caused the party to suffer a loss.

Prevention is definitely better than cure. Avoiding claims is possible with a few best practices: Learn to identify the risk; do not give answers without being 100% certain; use “invariable practice” of qualifying answers; refer decision making to your council/board; record the exchange.

The MIABC is offering Regional Risk Management Seminars on the south Island and the Lower/Mainland Fraser Valley in October that will be recorded and will subsequently be available by webinar.

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