Slips, trips and falls are a leading cause of injury for businesses and workplaces, according to Travelers Insurance. Businesses with considerable foot traffic have a heightened concern, especially during the winter months.
Some of the hazards associated with slip and fall injuries, according to the insurer, are slippery surfaces, holes or broken surfaces, poor drainage, spills and slippery conditions due to mud, ice or water during inclement weather.
As a past a claims adjuster and manager, Kevin Quinley, founder and principal of Quinley Risk Associates, is familiar with the uptick in general liability claims that occurs during this time of year due to harsh weather.
Thorough investigation is the cornerstone of good claims investigation when it comes to slip and fall claims on ice and snow, Quinley said during a recent Claims Insights podcast.
Some key components in investigating slip and fall claims on ice and snow include obtaining witness statements, accident reports, claimant’s statement, paramedic report, incident report, snow and ice removal service contract, weather records and photos.
While it may be unclear whether a claim will arise as a result of a slip and fall, Quinley said adjusters should presume a claim will occur.
Though people may think that a slip and fall on another’s property creates automatic responsibility for any injuries that may result, Quinley said that is not necessarily the case, since it depends on when the fall occurred and whether adverse weather was ongoing at the time of the incident.
In addition, slip and falls on ice or snow that occur at big box stores and realtors may embolden claimants to pursue claims, he said, when in reality, these stores likely have hold harmless and indemnity contracts with snow removal vendors that are small mom and pop operations. When investigating slip and fall claims at large businesses and strip malls, Quinley said adjusters should request these documents as well as any certificates of insurance to evaluate vendor responsibility.
One last takeaway, according to Quinley, is that adjusters should consider reaching out to local counsel to verify the duties of property owners and managers because those duties vary by jurisdiction.