Are American business owners falling victim to elaborate slip-and-fall schemes? According to new reports released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), businesses have seen an alarming increase in claims involving plaintiffs who have allegedly suffered injury from a slip, trip, or fall in a storefront. This alarming trend is perhaps best illustrated by the following statistic: in the past 30 months (2 and a half years), the number of claims that have been filed against businesses for negligence and/or slip-and-fall liability have increased by a reported 57% (i).
A Note from Our Editors: This new trend is fundamentally different from the rise in workplace accidents that has been recently featured on the Eagle Mat Blog. Rising rates of workplace injury have been reported by a number of commercial insurance agencies, including Liberty Mutual and CNA. Moreover, these “workplace accidents” involve injury sustained by employees only. It is not these accident claims that the NICB is investigating; rather, the NICB has stated that they plan to investigate the seemingly unnatural rise in slips and falls filed by customers against stores and property owners.
NICB Raises Awareness for Fraudulent Slip and Fall Cases
In a press release published in late August, NICB president and chief executive officer states “While many people have legitimate accidents in stores and businesses across the country, we’ve seen a growing number of cases that have some indication of potential fraud,” (ii). In that same report, the NICB states that over 4,600 claims deemed “questionable” were received in 2008, 2009, and the first six months of 2010.
According to the NICB, the claims in question usually involve two individuals who operate “sophisticated schemes [under] professional execution.” In a typical example, one individual will be a lookout for store employees and security personnel while the other finds a discreet area to stage a slip and fall. When both are certain the coast is clear, they will pour liquid on the floor and pretend to sustain an injury. Upon execution, the “non-injured” conspirator will run to get the attention of a manager or employee.
By the numbers, it appears as though apparently fraudulent slip and fall claims were highest in a handful of U.S. cities. At the top of the list were New York, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and Chicago during the time period of 2008-10. From a broader perspective, states California, Florida, New York, Illinois, and Texas were leaders in these questionable claims.
How to Prevent Slip and Fall Fraud
In an effort to help the NICB raise awareness for these fraudulent slip and fall injury claims, share the following preventative measures (iii):
1. Install security cameras.
The first tip is simple enough: Install video cameras to survey all areas that are accessible to guests. When properly installed, surveillance equipment will capture the comings-and-goings of the day, and it can identify when individuals are attempting to take advantage of your business.
2. Proactively keep areas clean.
Property owners can take the offensive by getting proactive in keeping facilities clean. Special attention should be given to floor surfaces throughout the facility, as well as outdoor sidewalks, stairs, and ramps.
3. Log maintenance efforts.
In addition to employing maintenance personnel to routinely check heavily trafficked areas, ask them to log the date and time that such areas are checked and cleaned. In doing so, property owners can sidestep potential liability claims by demonstrating that “reasonable efforts” have been made to ensure cleanliness and visitor safety.
4. In the event of an accident, view security tapes immediately.
This tip is a bit dated for today’s digital age, but it is nonetheless important. If your surveillance equipment uses VHS tapes, there’s a good chance they will be programmed to re-use those tapes if they are not changed. To make sure recordings of incidents are not lost, be sure to check cameras immediately after the alleged accident occurs. If needed, make copies of the tapes for future use.
Eagle Mat and Floor Products
This special report has been provided by Eagle Mat and Floor Products.
(i) “Slip and Fall QC Report.” NICB.org. Accessed 30 September 2013.
(ii) “NCIB Says Many Slip and Fall Claims Getting Second Look.” PRNewswire.com. Accessed 30 September 2013.
(iii) “Shield Your Business from Phony Slip and Fall Claims.” Genins.com. Accessed 30 September 2013.