Winter is the season of holiday cheer, but business owners who own property can find themselves in hot water should a slip and fall accident occur on their site. Being served with a lawsuit is something no person wants, but the chances of this can be greatly mitigated by taking meticulous care of your premises. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of business many owners seem to neglect, not realizing just how much of a threat premises liability poses; a claim can often bankrupt owners and otherwise ruin their businesses. Don’t believe that slip and fall claims are not profitable–see the statistics for yourself.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: In 2014, a whopping 42,480 work injuries involved ice, sleet or snow.
- New York alone accounted for 4,470 incidents.
- The Snow and Ice Management Association states that the average snow and ice slip and fall claim payout is a staggering $33,000.
- The National Floor Safety Institute cites that slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of worker’s compensation claims.
Know The Law
It is of the utmost importance to be knowledgeable of local laws regarding negligent property maintenance; this can be the difference between winning and losing a case. Laws vary by state, but many, such as the state of New York, provide a grace period, known as the “storm in progress” doctrine. This grants the property owner a grace period during inclement weather where they cannot be held liable for any incidents. It allows the owner to wait out the storm and grants them adequate time to enact their property management plan.
However, if the storm has passed and several hours have gone by, with no real efforts having been made to clear the snow, this can possibly fall into the realm of property negligence, opening the owner to potentially ravaging lawsuits.
It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry–don’t wait until after a lawsuit has been served to liability-proof your property. Be proactive and ensure your business does not fall into financial ruin by enacting the following:
- Purchase business liability insurance, particularly a policy that covers slip and fall claims. This can possibly be the one thing that prevents your company from going under, and the cost is well worth it.
- Keep your property clean and snow free at all times. It doesn’t have to be right away; as mentioned above, many states allow you several hours after the snowfall to adequately clear the property of snow. However, many fail to specify an exact time span, instead stating that it should be completed in a “reasonable” timeframe; don’t let the judge decide what that should be, get to it as soon as possible.
- Maintain active salting of your premises. Pay attention to any spots that could potentially turn into black ice, and salt away! Even when it is not snowing, a sprinkle of rock salt here and there will nip many potential slip and fall accidents in the bud. The Snow and Ice Management Association claims that over 80 percent of slip and fall accidents occur when it is not snowing.
- Actively inspect your property. Keep a real good eye on it, and make a habit of walking through it on a regular basis, especially if the shovel work was outsourced to an outside company or delegated to a worker. If far away from your location, consider installing exterior cameras to monitor for any discrepancies; after all, it is your property and no one will care for it as much as you do.
By adhering to these rules and being proactive instead of reactive, many business owners can altogether avoid the messy complications of a claim, which often rides on the property being negligently maintained. Let a lawyer be your last resort, not your first.
Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.