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Informing insurers is a duty - and can help

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In her article advising architects on how to deal with a complaining client, Judy Larkin (AJ 7.12.00) makes some very valid points.Yet she makes no mention of one of the first things an architect should do when there is a whiff of a complaint about their work in the air: speak to the firm's professional indemnity insurer.

This is the case, not only because immediate notification to the insurer will be a requirement of the policy, but also because the insurer should be able to help the architect act in the most appropriate way in this unpleasant situation.

It is very unsettling for an architect to hear that a client is suggesting their work is unsatisfactory and, before confronting the client, it helps sometimes to talk it through with a third party.

There should be someone at the broker's or the insurer's office who is experienced in such matters. They should be able to make an assessment of the problem, taking into account the legal implications, advising on the best way to deal with it, minimising any damage to the firm and, if it is a valid complaint, helping get it resolved in the best way for the parties involved.

The insurer should be one of the first people an architect thinks of as someone there to help get through it, avoiding, if possible, any time-consuming, costly and damaging legal action.

Sarah Peck, Wren Insurance Association, London SE1 Nice theory, but the practical implication of inviting a third party intervention is to exacerbate the 'us-and-them' nature of the matter in hand. The purpose of the article was to suggest that an amicable and open discussion of matters of concern might make the problem go away in the first instance. Not always possible, admittedly, but getting drawn into an insurance and legal advisory net is not the best course of action, if it can possibly be avoided.

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