POP QUIZ: Is This Auto Part Retailer Liable?
At 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, a man slipped and fell on a small amount of motor oil that had spilled on the floor of an auto parts store. No one knew how long the oil had been on the floor because the employees had no set procedures for monitoring the floors in the store. Who was liable for the accident? In this case, the store was held liable. Because the store had no documented spill monitoring system, it could not prove it had taken reasonable steps to protect customers from injury.
Now, just for fun, let’s say that the spill was NOT caused by motor oil. Instead, it was caused by a customer dropping a soda in the store. The store does not serve soda and did not realize the soda was brought into the store. They were also never notified of the spill. If a customer slips and falls in that spilled soda, could the store be held liable? Again, the answer is YES ... unless the store can can prove it took reasonable steps to protect customers. The source of the spill is irrelevant. To determine negligence and liability, the court looks at what steps the business took to create and maintain a safe shopping environment.
Slip, trip and fall accidents represent a large percentage of business insurance claims filed against retailers and businesses that allow the public onto their premises. These claims can seem like no big deal because many retailers have Premises Medical policies that automatically pay up to $5,000 for on-premise injuries. However, this is a big area for fraud and if your business has more than one slip and fall claim a year, it can impact your business insurance loss ratio and supersize your premiums. Furthermore, legitimate slip, trip and fall claims often do not resolve for less than $5,000. If back or knee surgery becomes necessary, you could face a business insurance general liability payout of $100,000 or more.
How can you protect your New York business insurance loss ratio and protect your customers? By practicing Reasonable Care. In simple terms, practicing Reasonable Care means that you’ve done everything you can reasonably be expected to do to protect customers from injury. Well-documented Reasonable Care is one the most effective ways to prove that you are not negligent and to defend your business against liability claims.
Below are a few ways to establish Reasonable Care:
Safety Policy – Make sure that floor monitoring procedures and and documentation are part of your safety policy.
Employee Training – Teach all employees what to do if a spill occurs. Make sure they know that they should never leave a spill unattended or unmarked. Document your training.
Floor Monitoring - Train employees to continuously monitor floors and clean-up any potentially dangerous spills immediately. Maintain a log that shows that walk-arounds were completed every hour – much like a “clean bathroom” log.
Spill Prone Areas – Use non-slip mats in areas prone to spills (like drinking fountain or bulk self-serve areas.
An old adage says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to slip, trip and fall liability, this is certainly true. Reasonable Care is an important proactive step to help protect your business insurance loss ratio and keep your premiums under control.
Trust your New York insurance expert, BNC Insurance and Risk Advisors, for additional New York business insurance tips and advice. Contact BNC today for Connecticut, New Jersey and New York business insurance quotes.
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