Slip and fall accidents, whether they result in severe injury or not, can become a literal pain in the neck for business owners. It’s their responsibility to monitor the premises constantly and document any repairs or damage in case of a future incident.
Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for businesses to prove they’re not the liable party. It’s essential to take every possible precaution before accidents happen to ensure they can back up their case. Having a good lawyer and liability insurance are also must-haves for most companies.
Despite every best intention, mishaps still happen, so business owners must have a plan in place. Following these tips for properly handling a workplace slip and fall accident is a good start.
1. Develop an Action Plan
Aside from routine maintenance, the best thing a business can do to keep itself from falling victim to slip and fall suits is to have an action plan in place. The strategy needs to cover all the steps an employee should take if a customer injures themselves onsite. Every aspect should be laid out in as much detail as possible so there’s no room for error.
Business owners should train all staff members on the action plan and have it posted for reference. After implementation, employees will know what to do and say, who to call, and what information to gather.
2. Call for Medical Help
The first step in any slip and fall accident should be to have someone call for help. The injured person should remain still until a professional can assess them for any spinal injuries. In the meantime, staff should make them as comfortable as possible.
If the customer is unconscious, someone should ensure their airway is clear and check for signs of a pulse and breath sounds. It may become necessary to start CPR. In such cases, staff members should alert 911 and stay on the line.
Even if a fall victim seems fine, encourage them to wait for an assessment or at least to see a doctor right away. As with any type of accident, some injuries might not be noticeable at first. However, symptoms may appear days or weeks later, by which time they may likely have caused more severe damage.
3. Closely Examine the Scene
After the victim receives the necessary care, business owners will want to get pictures or video footage of the scene. The reasons for this are twofold. On the one hand, they’ll want to know of anything in their business that needs repairs so they can prevent further accidents. Also, surveillance can serve as evidence if the slip and fall case goes to court.
Not all incidents end up in court. Some people never sue and others will agree to settle. If a case does appear before a judge, the victim must prove the business was at fault. Commercial property owners have a legal responsibility to their customers to ensure the premises are reasonably safe.
The accident would need to be caused by something the staff knew or should have known about and failed to take care of, like spills, loose flooring, or missing handrails. Without visual evidence, the injured individual will have an easier time proving the business’s liability and will likely get a maximum payout.
4. File an Incident Report
Every business, from local shops to corporations, should have a standard incident report as part of their accident action plan. Templates are available online, or a lawyer could easily draft one up.
The report should cover all the basics: the customer’s personal information, where the accident occurred, the condition of the fall site, the extent of injuries, and the medical care received.
It’s also a good idea to document any witnesses in case the customer decides to sue. Add to that any video or photo evidence, and a business is much more likely to be protected against lawsuits.
5. Call a Lawyer Right Away
After an incident, business owners should reach out to their lawyers right away. Making a statement or offering an apology before discussing it with legal representation could increase the likelihood of a lawsuit. Taking care of an injured customer without accepting responsibility for the incident is a delicate balance.
A lawyer can also give advice on what evidence to collect. They may also defend the business owner in court if need be. The lawyers will be responsible for contacting and bringing in the witnesses and presenting any documentation collected on the day of the accident.
However, if the client is also seeking compensation with the help of personal injury lawyers, you’re going to need a strong defense to avoid a hefty bill.
6. Contact the Insurance Provider
A general or premises liability insurance policy protects a business’s assets and can cover immediate medical costs of fall victims. Every company with a physical presence would be wise to obtain coverage. Otherwise, businesses that are found liable for the accident could be forced to pay any expenses out of pocket. When they’re protected with a policy, their insurance provider will foot some or all of the bill.
Even with excellent documentation, some details can get lost along the way, especially after a few days or weeks have passed. Therefore, it’s a good idea for owners to call their insurance provider right away so they can send an agent over to conduct their own investigation and create a detailed report. Their findings are helpful for presenting a solid case if proceedings go that far.
7. Prevent Future Incidents
The best way to handle slip and fall accidents is to take preventive measures to ensure they don’t happen in the first place. A location allowed to fall into disrepair is asking for a lawsuit, but creating a regular schedule for cleaning and maintenance will help keep problems at bay. Floors and steps should be level and free of debris. In addition, business owners must keep their property up to code.
It’s also a good idea to have security measures in place, like installing cameras to protect against premises liability suits. Outdoor lighting can help visitors see better and improve any footage your cameras pick up.
Keep Moving Forward
While dealing with the aftermath of a slip and fall accident, it’s imperative to keep moving forward. Legal action or even the fear of a lawsuit can stir negative feelings for a company and hurt morale.
Depending on the severity of the case, it may be in a business’s best interests to settle outside of court and avoid the legal fees associated with it. Otherwise, they may be in for a long and expensive journey with little to nothing to show for it, even if the business owner isn’t found to be liable.