Self-storage owners should be concerned with recognizing and reducing liability exposures. One of the largest types of claims seen among insurance companies is the ever-popular slip-and-fall injury.
Judges are cracking down on storage owners who allow dangerous conditions to exist, contributing to such injuries. The awards juries give to injured parties seems to grow every year; therefore, it is important to take precautions. In this article, you will read some suggestions on how to recognize and prevent some potential hazards that could result in a slip-and-fall accident and tips on what to do if an accident should occur at your facility.
Awareness is one of the most important factors in protecting customers from falls and your facility from lawsuits. Be aware of your responsibilities under the law, potential hazards at your facility, and your need to do everything a responsible person should to prevent accidents. Court decisions usually favor those who take proactive measures against mishaps.
One of the best keys to prevention is to walk around your facility to determine what could potentially go wrong and what you can do to prevent those situations from occurring. For example, you may discover a large pothole outside of one of your storage units needs to be blocked off and covered, or a loose step or broken piece of concrete that could cause someone to trip. You may find less obvious risks, such as a worn or curled floor mat in the office of your facility, which, ironically, was intended to prevent slippage.
A careless employee can also create a potentially dangerous situation in the normal course of his work. For example, one of your employees could leave a wet floor unattended for a few moments while mopping. Courts have been known to hold management responsible for the actions of their employees in these situations. Once again, a preventive response is the key. In this case, advise your employees of a specific risk and enforce such policies as posting a "Caution! Slippery When Wet" sign in the area being cleaned.
Some storage owners find it beneficial to hold regular accident-training sessions with their employees. Enforce quality-control measures in your facilities and equipment, and keep documented records of all preventive maintenance conducted. Hire competent employees, and routinely monitor their performance. If you are not onsite every day, it isn't a bad idea to periodically drop by unannounced to spot any unforeseen risks.
No matter how carefully laid your plans may be, accidents still happen. If someone at your facility suffers an injury, take immediate action by first seeking medical attention for the injured person, then document all known facts surrounding the incident. If a trip to the hospital is necessary, make sure the injured party goes in an ambulance--do not use a personal or company vehicle to transport him. If possible, try to get a written statement from the injured person and take a picture or camcorder footage of the site where the accident occurred. Get all the following information in writing:
- Name, address and phone number of the injured party
- Date and time of the accident
- Names of employees on duty and any witnesses
- Details about what caused the accident (Was it caused by the tenant or a pre-existing hazardous condition?)
- Information about when the site was last cleaned and inspected for hazards
Getting this information is crucial because it will help accurately reconstruct the events in case a lawsuit arises.
Secure yourself and your facility with adequate amounts of business-liability insurance to protect yourself from these types of incidences. A limit of $1 million should be considered the minimum amount of coverage for even the smallest facility. Remember to always check with your insurance agent or a legal advisor you can trust before making any changes to your current policy.
Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a comprehensive package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the self-storage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, write P.O. Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 85067-0079; call 800.844.2101; fax 480.970.6240; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.vpico.com/universal.