Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Slip and Fall Doesn't Just Happen at Walmart

If you are a small business owner or a contractor, and the slow economy and increasing general liability insurance premiums have you considering dropping your liability insurance, you may want to reconsider. Although many small business people think slip and fall lawsuits are the sort of things that just happen to companies like Walmart, the evidence suggests a growing trend in slip and fall claims against smaller businesses in retail, hospitality, the building sector and food services.

The National Safety Council says that approximately 25,000 people every day are involved in slip and fall accidents, and the annual expense of these accidents is over $30 billion per year. Wausau Insurance data suggests the average cost of a slip and fall related injury is in excess of $12,000.

And it's not just customers who are filing claims. According to Liberty Mutual 65% of all lost work days are a result of slip and fall accidents, and the leading cause of employee injury in the food service industry is slipping and falling.

Whilst the most high profile cases involve national brand companies, such as the case of Sharon Jasper, a New Orleans woman who sued Walmart in February 2013, claiming she sustained injuries in a slip and fall accident, the majority of cases don't even make it to trial, with settlements occurring out of court.

Although liability insurance quotes appear to stretch the bottom line for many businesses, they are insignificant when compared to the awards handed out for slip and fall accidents. According to the National Floor Safety Institute whilst a retail or supermarket fall averages $50,000 in awards, this amount rises to $78,000 in the building industry and $86,000 in the food service sector. This can affect not only small building contractors but also mom-and-pop restaurants who may be considering dropping their general liability insurance in difficult economic times.


However the National Safety Council suggests the average restaurant has 3 to 9 slip and fall accident every year, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that slip and falls are the primary cause of accidents in restaurants, hotels and public buildings, with 70% of these accidents happening on a level surface.

According to attorney Bruce Hagan, the law provides for a concept known as premises liability, in that the owners and businesses have a duty to provide a safe environment. This provision of safety doesn't just include customers and employees, but also extends to subcontractors and visitors.

And even small businesses that think they will win lawsuits against them can find themselves in for a rude shock, such as the case of the Boynton Beach movie theater that won a slip and fall case against a patron in February 2013. The company won the case but was still responsible for its own legal costs, and according to the National Flooring Safety Institute the average cost to defend a slip and fall lawsuit is $50,000, an amount that could put many businesses out of business altogether, making liability insurance quotes, which can easily be less than 10% of the cost of defending a single lawsuit, look like a worthwhile investment.



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