One of the most common accidents that can occur at a self-storage facility is when someone slips or trips, then falls and suffers an injury. Following is a real-life case study of an incident at a California facility, how the operator was affected, and expert advice on how to prevent this from happening to your business.
It was a rainy day, making it difficult for the self-storage manager to keep the tile floor clean. When someone walked through the office door, the employee suggested she not walk on the floor, which had just been mopped, but the customer failed to heed the advice. The woman slipped and fell, breaking her nose and injuring her back, which required surgery as well as months of physical therapy. An unfortunate sequence of events followed.
At first, the incident seemed typical of an accident of this type. The insurance company allocated a $7,500 reserve to cover the eventual settlement. The self-storage owner then received additional demands from the customer. What was expected to be a “simple” closed claim was reopened with a reserve of $500,000.
The customer sued the storage company and the case went before a jury. It was determined there were signs of negligence, as the manager had just mopped the floor but failed to put out the necessary warning signs. The court deemed the fall caused the need for additional surgeries to the woman’s nose, teeth and back, racking up more than $130,000 in medical bills. (Somehow, the fact that she had been in two auto accidents before the incident and another two afterward was dismissed as insignificant.) The owner was ordered to pay $100,000 to the woman plus cover all legal fees.
Though the operator lost time dealing with the case, he didn’t pay any out-of-pocket costs, as legal expenses were included in his company’s insurance policy. He wasn’t so lucky when it came to his insurance premium, however. When an insurance company pays hundreds of thousands of dollars on a claim, rates go up. A claim of this magnitude might even lead the insurance company to refuse a policy renewal.
It isn’t an easy message, but an insurance company must be profitable like any other business. In this case, it did renew the self-storage owner’s policy and considered the incident a one-time fortuitous claim. The deciding factor in the owner’s favor was his reputation of being hands-on and running an incredible operation.
Advice From the Pros
Safety should always be a primary focus at your self-storage business. Investing a little time and money up front to have a safe and clean facility goes a long way. In the case above, a simple solution would’ve been to mop the floors after hours. If they must be mopped during office hours due to a storm or spill, dry the floor as much as possible and put up signs announcing the floor is wet.
It isn’t just wet floors that could lead to a fall, either. What would happen if someone tripped and fell on your icy sidewalk? Yes, you may have insurance to cover it, but what’ll happen to your rates and your reputation in the neighborhood? If it could have been prevented, how will the insurance company consider this at renewal? In this case, it’s smarter to have a snow-removal company keep your ground clear of snow and ice!
Additional slip-and-fall hazards include ladders, electrical cords, potholes, uneven walkways, any wet surface, loose or torn carpeting, trash or debris, and grease or oil. Any of these can create an unsafe environment.
No self-storage operator is immune to this type of accident, but there are steps you can take to minimize the risk. First, have procedures in place to reduce the likelihood of a slip, trip and fall. Employees should receive proper training on when and how to complete maintenance tasks as well as how to spot and resolve a potential problem. In addition, make sure you have the proper insurance coverage in case this kind of accident happens at your site.
This article is courtesy of Jenny Bortman, vice president at Universal Insurance Programs, which has created and provided specialized insurance coverages to the self-storage industry for more than 20 years. For more information, call 602.222.8300; visit https://uiprograms.com.