If your business is open to the public, you have a duty to exercise reasonable care in keeping customers safe. Among other things, exercising reasonable care involves keeping floors and sidewalks dry and free of hazards, using wet floor signs and maintaining good housekeeping.
When slips, trips and falls occur on your business premises, you could be found liable for the injury if you are unable to prove that you fulfilled your duty of care. While many of these injuries are legitimate, some claims of slip and fall are fraudulent and result in large payouts. For these reasons, a prompt and thorough investigation is crucial.
After a fall, your customer’s safety and well-being is the first concern. To ensure that no injuries are missed – and that all injuries are accurately documented right away – it’s important to find out the injured person’s condition and to call for emergency treatment if needed. Write down the person’s name and contact information, as well as a description of the injury and any resulting pain. If emergency treatment is not required, ask about the person’s treatment plans.
When a slip and fall accident occurs, you need to document the incident and the area where it occurred. An incident report should be filled out as soon as possible. The more time that passes, the more people will forget or misremember. Take photographs of the area. Gather names and contact information from any witnesses present – both customers and employees.
Be sure to note key details, including the type of flooring, any hazards, weather conditions, spilled or leaked water, lighting conditions and the presence of any caution signs. Remember that you may need to prove that you took reasonable care. If floor monitoring or housekeeping logs are available to illustrate your diligence, provide them to your insurer.
If security camera footage exists, this will be helpful to determine what happened and whether it’s possible the accident was staged. Depending on your company’s policy, you may want to alert your insurer of the potential for a claim and provide the gathered information.
Admission of Guilt
When a slip and fall occurs, managers and other employees should respond with concern and compassion. They should not, however, respond with admissions of guilt. Even seemingly innocuous statements can undermine a future case. Do not say that you should have been able to prevent the fall. Do not discuss previous issues. Simply provide the necessary help and thoroughly document the incident.
The best claim is the one that never happens. To minimize the chance of slips, trips and falls at your business, be sure to take the following precautions:
- Monitor the premises regularly for any problems.
- Clean up spills and leaks promptly, and put out caution signs when floors are wet from cleaning.
- Put out caution signs when weather conditions could lead to wet and slippery floors.
- Fix holes, cracks, loose carpet or other hazards promptly.
- Clear walkways of hazards, including wires and other items that could cause people to trip.
- Provide adequate lighting.
- Thoroughly train all employees in slip, trip and fall response procedures, and provide monthly reminders so no one forgets.
By taking these basic precautions, you can keep customers and employees safer, fulfill your duty of care and reduce the frequency of claims. If you’d like help developing slip and fall procedures for your employees, contact Higginbotham for information about our safety programs.