A personal injury can occur on the site of any business, including a self-storage facility, and it can be costly on many levels, particularly if the operator is held liable. In this case, prevention really is the best policy. Learn to avoid such accidents and what to do if one occurs at your facility.

Louie Gonzalez, Service Specialist

February 20, 2024

4 Min Read

In 2022, liability verdicts at trial for an injury on a business premises averaged more than $600,000. The most common involved damage to the knee, while the costliest involved harm to the spine. In fact, slip-and-fall claims, just one category of negligence exposures, account for a large portion of personal-injury events in the self-storage industry.

Reviewing these exposures can help you identify the types of incidents that could occur at your facility as well as how to address these hazards so you can prevent or at least minimize them. Here’s how to limit your risk.

Types of Exposure

Though there are many types of personal-injury exposures at self-storage sites, slips and falls are the most common. Operators have a duty to maintain their properties in a reasonable and safe condition for tenants, staff and visitors.

Prevalent causes of slip-and-fall hazards are inclement weather and poor facility upkeep. Be on the lookout for slippery or wet surfaces, uneven surfaces, insufficient lighting, and broken handrails. These injuries can result in skeletal, muscular and head trauma. Settlement amounts can vary depending on severity, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering associated with the injured person.

Equipment malfunction can also contribute to injuries at self-storage facilities, for example a broken gate or unit door. If either were to fall on a user, it could result in head injury or lacerations from sharp metal edges. An insurance claim could escalate to legal action. If a defense theory can’t be established or a settlement reached via negotiations, claimant attorneys typically proceed with filing a lawsuit to resolve the matter in the judicial system, which could be a costly battle for your business.

Reporting Injuries

One question many self-storage operators ask is when to report an injury to their insurance company. How significant should it be? When in doubt, be prudent and contact your carrier as promptly as possible. You can report the incident as:

  • Notification only: This will alert the carrier to initiate a claim and assign it a number and adjuster, in case the injured party pursues a claim against the policy at a future date.

  • Notice of claim: In this case, a claim will again be initiated and a number and adjuster assigned; however, the adjuster will initiate a thorough investigation of the loss.

As a standard practice, complete an incident report to record the facts. Get names and contact information for all parties involved and take photos of the scene. Proper documentation is a crucial step that’s often neglected, but an incident report can help establish the circumstances of the accident and be used as evidence in claim negotiations. At a minimum, your insurance-claims department will require:

  • Insured’s name

  • Contact name, phone and email

  • Date of loss

  • Location of loss (full address)

  • Claim description

  • Documentation to support an investigation (e.g., incident report, video clip, photos, lease agreements, etc.)

  • Claimant’s name and contact information (or their legal representative)

Security-camera footage can provide valuable information during this kind of investigation. Therefore, verify that your cameras are functional and appropriately placed around your property.

Reduce the Risk

Preventing personal injuries before they happen is in the best interest of every self-storage operator. Losses create undue hardship that requires time, money, energy and resources to resolve, particularly if you need to settle a claim or defend against a lawsuit. To reduce your risk:

  • Conduct regular property walk-throughs to identify potential hazards, carefully inspecting your unit doors, flooring, bollards, sidewalks and driveways.

  • Follow a strict facility-maintenance plan to address necessary repairs before they turn into serious problems.

  • Be cognizant of how your facility might be affected by rain, snow and wind, then take measures to prevent dangerous conditions.

  • Annually review insurance coverages with your carrier to ensure adequate protection in the event of a loss.

Personal-injury claims can be costly in self-storage, and they have an extensive investigation process that can take months, even years, to resolve. When there’s a lack of supporting documentation and a settlement can’t be reached, they tend to escalate to litigation.

Prevention is really the best policy. To avoid injuries at your self-storage facility, be intimately familiar with your property and keep it well-maintained. If an incident occurs, have reporting procedures in place that are clear and simple to execute. While it’s impossible to eliminate all risk, these precautions can help reduce it.

Louie Gonzalez is a service specialist with Universal Insurance Programs, which has created and provided specialized insurance coverages to the self-storage industry for more than 20 years. His primary role is facilitating claims between clients, carriers, adjusters and underwriters. He previously spent 14 years as an adjuster for legacy carriers, working with first-party property damage and bodily injury/liability claims. To reach him, call 480.885.2607; email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Louie Gonzalez

Service Specialist, Universal Insurance Programs

Louie Gonzalez is a service specialist with Universal Insurance Programs, which has created and provided specialized insurance coverages to the self-storage industry for more than 20 years. His primary role is facilitating claims between clients, carriers, adjusters and underwriters. He previously spent 14 years as an adjuster for legacy carriers, working with first-party property damage and bodily injury/liability claims. To reach him, call 480.885.2607; email [email protected].

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter
ISS is the most comprehensive source for self-storage news, feature stories, videos and more.

You May Also Like