Companies are always at risk of accidents. Employees and customers may fall and injure themselves, but sue the business where their accident happened. Owners should understand how to prevent and address slip-and-fall cases. Here’s where to start.
What Is a Slip-and-Fall Case?
The name of a slip-and-fall case may seem self-explanatory, but there can be nuances. It’s a personal injury case, so business owners can face various situations.
The person suing the business or property owner has to demonstrate that the individual failed their duty of care by creating accident-prone conditions. That includes things such as:
- Wet floors
- Unsalted pavement
- Trash on the floor
- Loose or uneven flooring
A customer may fall after an employee cleans the floors. If they are still wet and someone is injured, they can sue the business owner personally for failing to alert them of the temporary walking hazard.
However, a structural issue causing a fall may lead to the customer or employee suing the property owner. Business owners who rent their storefronts wouldn’t be personally liable.
If a court finds proven negligence, a combination of insurance coverage and personal funding may cover the individual’s medical bills or ongoing treatment.
How Often Do Slip-and-Fall Cases Happen?
Slip-and-fall cases don’t happen every day, but they’re common enough to be a professional concern. In 2020, 211,640 workers were badly injured from falls and had to take time off work to recover.
Personal injury lawsuits settle most of the time, likely because trial litigation is time-consuming, exhausting and costly. However, they’re a continual risk for businesses as anyone can fall and injure themselves.
How to Protect the Business
There are a few ways business owners can protect their company from slip-and-fall lawsuits. These are the most common resources and steps taken in the workspace.
1. Get General Liability Insurance
Personal injury insurance may sound applicable to slip-and-fall cases, but they only protect a person’s rights. Bodily harm falls under general liability insurance. Every business benefits from this coverage because it includes claims from physical injuries and property damage.
Filing a claim will require thorough documentation of the accident, including details like photos. Giving as much information as possible to insurance providers makes it more likely that they’ll cover more of the claim, legal fees and settlement costs.
2. Train Employees to Stay Safe
Everyone who works for a company should know how to maintain a safe environment. Annual or biannual training courses with reminders can be effective ways to make those strategies everyone’s top priority. Training can include tips like:
- Wiping the floor with a dry mop pad after mopping
- Setting up wet floor signs near spills or freshly cleaned floors
- Wearing shoes with slip-resistant soles
- Replacing broken lightbulbs to illuminate all areas
- Scanning for potential environmental changes when navigating the building
Safety steps may seem simple, but people may not always consider them. Repeating them during training sessions is an excellent way for business owners to prevent slip-and-fall cases.
3. Upgrade Company Property as Needed
Older buildings and amenities might make an environment more prone to accidents. It depends on various factors. Business owners can upgrade their technology, like floor lighting fixtures and signage, to prevent accidents.
Flooring that’s been around for many years may have warped with time. Walking and water damage can lift planks or create soft spots under carpets. Replacing the flooring after an inspection keeps falls from occurring.
Outdated appliances can also cause falls. They may leak and create puddles in high-traffic areas. Investing in new ones keeps employees and consumers safe while providing higher-quality tech that makes businesses more efficient. It could also save the company money if the appliances are eco-friendly and reduce electricity use.
How to Respond to a Fall
When the worst-case scenario occurs and someone falls in a business, owners can respond with these actionable steps.
1. Call for Medical Assistance
Whoever is closest to the injured person should call 911 for medical assistance. Even if they don’t seem to have broken bones, it’s safer to ensure they’re all right.
If an employee becomes injured after a fall, a company’s workers’ compensation insurance should cover their ambulance ride if needed. It will also provide financial assistance for lost wages, benefits and ongoing care.
People are less likely to sue if they feel personally cared for after a mild accident. Ensuring that they get immediate medical assistance is the best way for business owners to take that crucial first step. Creating a first-aid kit and keeping essential supplies on-site are other ways to help someone while maintaining the safest environment possible.
2. Inspect and Block off the Fall Site
After dialing the local emergency number, team members should help inspect and block off the area. Quickly identify what caused the person’s fall. It may be a hidden puddle, cord or loose nail in the hardwood floor.
Once team members know what caused the fall, they can block off the site with appropriate signage. Wet floor signs or chairs can surround the area while a tape line connects them. No one else should be able to walk there until there’s enough time to resolve the issue.
3. Complete a Report
There are various ways to fill out an incident report, and it may need to happen a few times. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) legally requires companies to complete its form and maintain a copy for five years after the accident.
The business’s general liability insurance provider will also have a digital or printable form. People often file an additional notice with their workers’ compensation insurance provider. All three will need information such as:
- The name of the company, plus everyone involved in the fall and response
- The date, time and place of the incident
- The specific details of the fall and injury in chronological order
- Witness statements as needed
- Photo evidence
It can take a few days or up to a week to properly file each report. The injured party may want to file a police report as well. They can do this after someone calls 911. If their medical needs are an emergency, the injured party can drive to the local police station after the hospital or emergency room discharges them.
4. Get Ready for Legal Action
When someone falls in a business, the company owner and employees should avoid using any language that presumes responsibility. It could affect the outcome if the case goes to trial.
The business owner should also alert their personal or company lawyer if they have personal injury law experience. If not, finding an outside attorney is essential. Even if the injured party wants to avoid a trial by settling, the business owner’s counsel will negotiate the best deal possible.
Prepare for Potential Accidents
These are crucial ways for business owners to prevent and respond to slip-and-fall cases. Accidents are always possible, so it’s best to plan a professional response that helps everyone involved.