Whether you manage an office, a retail store or a construction site, slip, trip and fall accidents pose a danger. According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), falls result in more than 8 million hospital emergency room visits, or 21.3% of all visits, each year.
A slip is when you lose your footing and fall backward, for example, because the floor is wet. A trip is when your foot catches on something and you fall forward. Both slips and trips can result in serious, sometimes deadly, injuries. Businesses must take precaution to reduce fall risk and to limit their liability.
Lawsuits and Workers’ Compensation Claims
If a customer, client, vendor or other guest is injured in a slip, trip and fall incident while on your property, you could be sued. For example:
- A man who suffered permanent injuries after slipping on an “accumulation of a liquid substance” at Foxwoods Resort Casino has been awarded $1.3 million in a court settlement, according to Patch. The plaintiff’s attorney said that the liquid had probably been spilled by a casino patron and ignored by several employees. The liquid remained on the floor for 20 minutes before the incident.
- A woman was awarded $1.9 million in a slip and fall verdict in Tallahassee, according to WTXL. She was injured when she slipped on a puddle of water that had collected next to a bin of ice and beer at a USA Grocers convenience store.
If an employee experiences a slip, trip and fall injury, you will likely face a workers’ compensation claim. The NFSI says that slips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims for workers aged 55 and older. Slips and falls also represent the primary cause of lost workdays.
Reducing Slip, Trip and Fall Risks
Taking steps to eliminate slip and trip dangers accomplishes two things. First, it can prevent injuries from occurring. Second, if an injury does occur, it can reduce liability exposures.
- Remove or fix tripping hazards, such as cords or other items in walking areas, broken steps, torn carpet and cracked flooring.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Provide handrails and warning signs as needed.
- Provide adequate lighting.
- Identify places where water accumulation is likely, such as at front doors, next to produce or by containers holding ice, and take measures to prevent puddles.
- Make sure floors provide reasonable traction and are not slippery.
- Use safety mats as needed.
- Have employees conduct routine inspections of the premises to spot and fix any hazards. These inspections must be documented consistently to demonstrate that your business takes reasonable care to protect the public from potential hazards.
Responding to an Incident
Although proper precautions can prevent the likelihood of an incident, a slip, trip and fall accident is still possible.
- Help the person who fell. If the person is an employee, arrange for immediate medical care according to your usual workers’ compensation protocols. If the person is a patron, ask if they’d like you to call someone. It’s good to show genuine concern, but you should avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as admitting fault.
- Gather documentation. This may include an incident report, a statement from the person who fell, witness statements, security camera footage, and photographs that you take of the area. Slip, trip and fall liability fraud is rampant. Gathering relevant documentation of the incident can make a big difference in your defense if you are sued.
- Contact your insurance company. You will need to immediately report the incident.
Wilson, Washburn & Forster is a boutique independent insurance agency that has been in business since 1961. We have expertise and connections in the commercial insurance market and can also help customize the right mix of coverage and endorsements to protect against the unique exposures of your business. You will find that our experience, claims handling, service, and community commitment is unrivaled.
Contact us today for a complimentary analysis of your current insurance program by an insurance specialist in this field at 786-454-8384.
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