Community associations are micro-governments within every city and state in this Nation. Since they are also governed by local, state, and federal laws, and can be subjected to legal action, proper documentation of incidents should occur when necessary. Homeowners and guests have a certain level of service they expect from the management company. This service is delivered in many fashions, to include documentation. When unexpected incidents occur, management should perform their due diligence in collecting facts.
The incident report form is a formality that is very important to document events at your property, yet it is rarely used by managers. It is the foundation of Report Writing 101. There are many reasons for managers to use it. It helps document an event, the details of that event, and it serves as the ONLY version of that event to be shared. Seeing that many incidents that occur at a property can lead to a lawsuit, insurance claim, or a complaint of some type, the incident report form can serve as a document that states the details of that event so the manager no longer has to retell the same story in varying ways. This form, if properly completed, may protect the manager, the association, and possibly the management company from the liability of having multiple versions of the same event.
When should management generate the form?
It is important to document events such as:
• Workplace injuries
• Workplace violence
• Employee involvement in disputes
• Verbal or physical abuse by a homeowner
• Incidents involving contractors
• Property damage
• Threats to you or staff
Any of the examples above can lead to an attorney, insurance company, or the police coming to ask management many questions, and for the details of any incident. Rather than allowing your memory to serve you differently every time you are asked about an event, it is best to have a documented resource to share. As time passes, your memory begins to fade, and you don’t want to guess when asked about an incident you witnessed or were involved in. If any of these examples turn into a large claim, your differing versions of an event can be used against you, the association, or your employer.
Make sure your report has the following information so that you can easily recollect pertinent facts should you need them later:
o Date, time, address, description of location
o The people involved and their contact information.
o Witnesses and their contact information
o Types of injuries (bruise, redness, laceration, any bleeding)
o Apparent cause of injury (blunt force, fall, weapon, etc)
o Did you or someone else render aid? Did they refuse aid?
o Description of circumstances (darkness, slippery floor, bright lights)
o Signage in place (wet floor, danger, construction zone, yellow caution tape)
o Statements made by others (threats, tone of voice, mannerisms, verbatim phrases)
o Complaints of pain. Location of injured site (left or right hand /leg, left calf, bottom lip)
o Action taken by staff, management, or the board. Was anyone notified?
o Police case number, name of officers, name of Fire Department and names if available
Who else usually generates incident reports? For managers that subcontract work such as security, those vendors may have their own version of an incident report. As a manager, when there is a serious incident, ask your contractors for copies of their incident reports. Unfortunately, security vendors’ incident reports are usually below the standard for proper reporting. They are poorly written, lack sufficient descriptions, details, and contain many errors. If you rely solely on the security company’s report, you will be at risk of being portrayed in the same style that report is written in. Do not rely on someone else’s version of an event; particularly when it is something that may become a legal matter later.
Other forms may be required by your employer, a state or federal entity, or other internal association procedures. For example, if there is an injury at work, you may need to fill out other forms for Worker’s Comp as well as internal employer forms. If a contractor’s employee suffers an injury, ask them for a copy of their incident report and any OSHA paperwork filed. Go on the record with them that you asked for these copies as they may not properly report their internal incidents to OSHA and your management company, or the association can be on the hook. Remember to take pictures of the site, equipment, injuries, and contributing factors.
While the incident report may become part of the official records, you may not have to share it immediately if the incident is related to a legal matter that will likely serve as evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding. Check with your attorney if the incident is serious enough that they will likely be involved.
For now, this should be enough for you to consider writing the proper report when an incident occurs. If you would like more information on consulting for your community association, find more information on my site at www.HomeownerAssociationConsulting.com