Slip-and-fall Fraud — Some Clues
How can you avoid slip-and-fall scams on your property? First and foremost, eliminate hazards. The initial step is testing floor slip resistance before a fall is reported. Failing that, pay attention when someone reports a slip, even if it didn’t lead to a fall or injury. That report put you on notice — you can’t truthfully pretend not to know there was a hazard. Make sure you can’t credibly be accused of negligence that led to the accident. Scammers love to see negligence (“failure to act reasonably under the circumstances”), because it makes their job easier.
Complying with the minimum requirements of the building code for slip resistance might not be a defense. The code says you must consider many other factors — sixteen, in fact.
There must be a link between the hazard and the fall, known as causation. However, any competent con artist should be able to set up that match by giving thought to the staging of the accident.
If you could have prevented or eliminated the hazard at reasonable cost, you had a duty to do that. Slip-and-fall accidents are not always trivial — damages can exceed a million dollars for one accident. Hoping that you’d be lucky might not be an effective defense.
There are many ways of eliminating slip hazards, for small areas and large.
Location. The location for a scam is likely to be one where there are no witnesses (other than accomplices). Scammers should be aware that there is video surveillance in many public areas, but make sure to preserve the record if there is one.
Victim. Is the “victim” a solid citizen or a transient, or an unlucky soul with numerous previous claims?
Evidence. The spill that caused the fall may have been planted by the victim or an accomplice. Broken eyeglasses, cameras, phones, etc. may have already been broken when they came onto the premises. Blood might have been brought in a syringe for the occasion.
Damages. Soft tissue injuries are hard to prove or disprove, but X-rays of skeletal damage may have been made days or years before the incident on your premises. Maybe the injury happened in a bar fight last Saturday night, or on the stairs at home, or when the “victim” ran her car into a tree.
Offer to settle. A claimant who is too anxious to “get this over with” and get on with his vacation should be aware that real slip-and-fall injury effects may last for years.
Lawyers, doctors and chiropractors. These professionals may be willing or unwitting accomplices. However, many of the crooked ones prefer to spend their time on more-lucrative auto accident scams.
Workers not covered by your workers’ comp. Your business property may be mostly used by your loyal employees, but don’t forget that delivery people, subcontractors, and sales representatives may have claims that your workers’ comp, and theirs (once their carrier finds out you’re responsible), won’t cover. Make sure that you don’t have hazards that imperil them and thus invite litigation.
For more detail on slip-and-fall fraud see Chapter 15 of the book STOP Slip and Fall Accidents! For help in eliminating your hazards and documenting the safety of your floors, contact Dr. George Sotter, state-registered Professional Engineer, at Safety Direct America: 1-800-677-9821.