Children aren’t the only ones who get scared when the lights go out at night.
Grownups also lie awake at night thinking about bad things that can happen. This is especially true with business owners, who tend to worry about catastrophic occurrences that could bankrupt their company. What if the building burns down? Or the business gets robbed and cleaned out? Or an employee embezzles funds from the corporate account?
And now comes a brand new concern: a reported jump in slip-and-fall accidents and the lawsuits that accompany them. But is there any truth to this perception? Or is it just another bogeyman that plays on the fears of business owners?
One law firm in Phoenix unveiled a press release last month which touted “Record Demand In 2014 For Slip And Fall Injury Representation Throughout Arizona.” But when you read the text of the document, there is no actual documentation provided to back up that claim. So it’s quite possible that the firm simply slapped a provocative headline on a general press release that promoted its legal services.
It’s difficult to find genuine data related to the number of slip-and-fall accident lawsuits being filed, settled, or litigated in the United States. A more broad statistic by the National Floor Safety Institute reveals that overall personal injury lawsuits have more than quadrupled in the foodservice sector since 1980. But aside from being industry-specific, that figure doesn’t break down how many of those personal injury lawsuits were associated with slip-and-fall accidents. Other tangential statistics:
- Some 25,000 victims of slip-and-fall accidents are reported each day in the U.S. [National Safety Council]
- The average cost for a business to defend itself against a slip-and-fall accident lawsuit is $50,000. [National Floor Safety Institute]
- In premises liability cases (which include slip-and-fall accidents) that go to trial, the verdicts favor the plaintiffs 51% of the time. [Jury Verdict Research]
As you can see, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to gauge the likelihood of any given business being named as a defendant in a slip-and-fall accident lawsuit. There are a number of non-quantifiable factors to take into account, such as the civil legal climate in a particular state, city, or county; the strength of the economy in a given locale; and even the prevalence of insurance fraud in a specific area.
So what’s the best strategy for businesses? It’s the same as with other potential calamities: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. More specifically, it means business owners should take reasonable precautions to ensure that no slip-and-fall accidents occur on their property. Suggestions include:
- Placing floor mats in high-traffic or moisture-prone areas
- Cleaning up spills immediately and/or blocking off the area to customer traffic
- Clearing driveways or sidewalks of snow and ice promptly during inclement weather periods
- Ensuring that aisles and walkways are clutter-free and well-lit
- Placing handrails or non-skid tape near stairs or steps
- Training employees on the importance of safety and reinforcing your commitment to preventing slip-and-fall accidents
At the end of the day, there’s no reason to expend additional energy being anxious about a rising trend of slip-and-fall lawsuits. If you’ve done all you can to minimize the risk of these types of mishaps, then you deserve to rest easy.
Written by Chris Martin