Business owners spend a lot of time and energy trying to anticipate future events and plan for contingencies. So they order more inventory before depleting current stocks, tweak their marketing and sales strategies to capitalize on current trends, and schedule additional personnel when they think they will see a surge of customers.
But these people can rarely predict when a slip-and-fall accident may take place at their business. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for these accidents to result in lawsuits filed by the victims. So for those who have never gone through it, here is a quick look at what this process might look like.
1. Somebody Slips and Falls at Your Business
First and foremost, there’s the incident itself. When a customer slips and falls on your floor, it can be pretty scary – especially if the individual suffers obvious injury. When this happens, you’ll apologize profusely, help them seek medical attention if necessary, and maybe even offer to make amends with a free or discounted product or service.
Makes your heart sink to your stomach, doesn’t it?
2. You Get Sued
Then because you get busy, you forget about the entire incident – until weeks or months later when you are served with a personal injury lawsuit. Chances are, you feel a combination of shock, disbelief, embarrassment, and anxiety at being named as a defendant in a civil suit. Once your head stops spinning, you contact the company that provides your business insurance and tell them about the lawsuit. (If you do not currently have business insurance, stop reading this article immediately and go obtain it. It’s that important.)
3. Your Insurance Company Gets Involved
Next, you’ll have to provide your insurer with an entire account of what happened. This may mean getting statements from employees, customers, or other people who saw the slip-and-fall accident and its aftermath. Gathering the necessary paperwork and filling out the proper forms will take time away from your business.
If you’re lucky, your insurer will reach a quick settlement with the injured person, the case will be over, and your business insurance rates will go up.
4. More Paperwork and Depositions
If not, then the case will move into what’s known as the discovery phase. This will require more of your time gathering store policy information, answering the plaintiff’s questionnaires, and interacting with your defense attorney. You’ll also have to miss work to be deposed by the plaintiff’s lawyer, during which you’ll likely be asked leading questions that imply you were at fault for allowing the victim to slip on the floors of your business. Your employees may have to be deposed as well.
Again, if you get lucky, the case will be settled, your rates will increase, and you’ll be done with it.
If you didn’t have one of these near a spill, the likelihood of the lawsuit being successful increases significantly.
5. You Go To Trial
If not, the lawsuit will enter the courtroom, which may require you to miss days of work at a time to be present for the trial. You’ll probably be called as a witness to testify and asked the same uncomfortable questions by the plaintiff’s counsel again – but this time in front of jurors and/or a judge, the victim, and others in the courtroom. The rest of the time, your stomach will be in knots as the trial progresses, but you’ll be forced to appear calm lest the jury see your anxiety and interpret it as a sign of guilt.
6. Your Get the Verdict
Once the judge or jury returns a verdict, you may get really lucky and receive a favorable judgment, meaning that you and your insurer won’t have to pay any more money to the victim. (Unless of course the plaintiff decides to appeal, in which case the whole process could start over again.) Or the victim could be awarded additional funds which are to be paid by your insurer – and that of course will increase your premiums.
Or you could experience really bad luck and be hit with a judgment that exceeds your insurance policy limits, leaving you to pay off the balance. This amount could be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (or sometimes more) which will have to come from somewhere. It’s even possible that this may cause your business to declare bankruptcy and/or close its doors for good.
The judge is looking at you – and he’s not happy. Which means you aren’t happy.
It Could Happen To You – If You Don’t Take Precautions
The moral of the story is pretty obvious: do whatever you can to avoid being targeted with a slip-and-fall lawsuit. That means placing floor mats near entryways, in moisture-prone areas, and anywhere that the floor may be slippery, uneven, or otherwise hazardous. Ultimate Mats can assist you in obtaining the proper floor protection for your business needs.
Because the last thing you want is to see your name on a legal document next to the word “defendant.”