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Protecting People and Property: How to Manage Accidents That Occur at Your Self-Storage Facility

A self-storage operation comes with legal risk, but there are also physical dangers. It’s possible an onsite accident could result in harm to people or property. The goal is to prevent injury and damage from ever occurring; but if you can’t, here’s advice to help you minimize the negative impact.

Brian Bogdanoff

February 15, 2022

5 Min Read

As a self-storage operator, you’re faced with many business challenges. One of these is risk management. Even if you’ve established safety procedures and use precaution, accidents can and do happen. It might be an injury to someone on the premises, damage to a tenant’s property or harm to one of your buildings. These incidents cost time and money in addition to causing headaches. They can even hurt your reputation in the community.

Having a risk-management plan in place can help you prevent accidents at your self-storage property or at least minimize the fallout. If a mishap does occur, you need to know how to respond and the appropriate actions to take.

Check Your Lease Agreement

Your first line of defense is your self-storage rental agreement. Consult with an industry attorney to ensure it’s current with all laws and summarizes the rules of your property. It should clearly state that tenants are prohibited from storing hazardous materials on site. It must also include a limit on the value of stored goods. Finally, it should contain specific language to restrict tenants’ rights to make claims against the facility in the event of an injury.

Stay on Top of Facility Maintenance

Conducting routine maintenance can help keep your self-storage facility in good condition. Inspections should be carried out multiple times per day to ensure the site is safe and secure. This can help diminish accidents that might result in injury or damage. If you spot a possible hazard, post warning signs or block off the area with cones or tape until it can be resolved.

Document all maintenance tasks to demonstrate that you’ve cared for the property to the best of your ability. This can be instrumental when filing an insurance claim and during any legal proceedings.

In addition, establish policies and procedures to minimize hazards. For example, install non-slip flooring, ensure all unit doors are working properly and keep your fire extinguishers are up-to-date. These small steps can make a big difference in preventing injuries and insurance claims. Following the right processes won’t always prevent accidents from happening, but they can help reduce the loss and financial cost of an incident.

Know How to Respond

If there’s an accident at your self-storage facility, the first thing to do is ensure the people and property involved are safe. If someone was injured—for example, a tenant slipped and fell outside his unit—offer medical assistance. You might call an ambulance, family member or friend, or provide first aid. In the event of property damage, do what you can to protect the area. In either case, you have a duty to protect the person or property from further harm.

You also need to carefully document everything that occurred. If you aren’t using a specific reporting form, get one. Ask you insurance provider or attorney for a sample. All employees should be trained on how to fill out a report and where it should be stored. The final report should outline everything staff did to assist, for example:

  • If you requested medical assistance or issued first aid, note it.

  • If the person was taken to urgent care or a hospital, add the name and location of the medical facility.

  • If the victim declines medical attention or first aid, ask them to sign a record of what was offered.

  • Take statements from the injured party and any witnesses.

  • Take photos to preserve a record of the scene as it was at the time of the accident.

  • You might also review your video surveillance and make a note of the timestamps.

  • Save all receipts for any supplies you purchased to keep people or property secure.

  • Depending on what happened, you might need to obtain a police report.

Keep all completed incident forms in a safe place where they can be readily accessible. You may need to share them with an insurance adjuster, if necessary.

If You Need to File a Claim

As a self-storage operator, you should review your insurance policy with your agent each year to ensure it includes the unique coverages that protect against industry-specific risks. If there’s ever an accident at your facility, first ensure all people and property are safe, then contact the agency that handles your insurance. Even if you don’t ultimately file a claim, it’s wise to keep your agent in the loop, in case related problems arise down the line, like a lawsuit.

Attempting to settle a claim before reporting it to the insurance carrier or failing to file a claim in a timely manner may result in a breach of contract and jeopardize your coverage. Alerting your agent as quickly as possible affords your carrier the opportunity to review, investigate, collect additional information and represent your interest in any legal action that may result if it’s deemed a covered cause of loss.

Provide as much information as possible to the insurance agency, including:

  • Name of person involved

  • Date of loss

  • Location of the incident

  • Detailed description of the incident

  • Copy of policy report and video/photos if available

Most important, do not admit any liability. You don’t want to say anything that could be construed as a promise to pay for medical treatment or damages. It’s best to let the other party know the information has been reported to your insurance company.

Once a claim is submitted, an adjuster (examiner) will be in touch to discuss next steps. Your insurance agent can’t make any coverage determination. This is done by the adjuster.

You can work hard to minimize hazards and losses at your self-storage facility, but it won’t prevent all accidents. Personal injuries and property damage are a peril of operating a business. Having the appropriate plan and insurance coverage will help you manage the risk and costs.

Brian Bogdanoff is the director of property and casualty insurance for Storable, providing self-storage insurance coverage in all 50 states. In addition to insurance, Storable a comprehensive suite of intuitive products that work together to increase business efficiency and profitability. For more information, call 888.525.1760 or email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Brian Bogdanoff

Vice President, Insurance Office of America

Brian Bogdanoff is a vice president with Insurance Office of America (IOA), which provide self-storage insurance (property and casualty, and tenant protection). Headquartered in Longwood, Fla., IOA operates in more than 60 locations throughout the U.S. and London. For more information on disaster plans and comprehensive self-storage business insurance, contact 800.243.6899, ext. 43130, or [email protected].

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