Slips, Trips & Falls, By The Numbers
Slips, trips and falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries, according to the National Safety Council. Common areas for falls to occur are in doorways, ramps, cluttered hallways, unstable work surfaces, ladders and stairs. But how does this impact insurance? From National Underwriter P&C’s January issue, take a stats-eye view of these slippery expenditures:
General Liability Insurance: Avoid Winter Slip-Ups
Here’s a general liability insurance claim waiting to happen. Check out this video…..8 minutes of people falling over the same patch of ice. It’s actually pretty entertaining.
The winter months bring general liability insurance hazards that are typically not factors for during warmer weather – especially, slip and fall hazards. With snow and ice-covered conditions, you run the risk of taking major spills.
Consider the following recommendations to prevent slip and fall injuries during the winter months
- Wear the proper footwear that provides traction on snow and ice. Footwear should be made of anti-slip material; avoid plastic and leather-soled shoes or boots.
- Be cautious when entering and exiting vehicles, and use the vehicle for balance and support.
- Try to walk only in designated areas that are safe for foot traffic. If you notice that a walkway is covered in ice, walk on the grass next to the sidewalk, which will have more traction.
- Avoid inclines that are typically difficult to walk up or down as they may be more treacherous in winter conditions.
- Take small steps to maintain your center of balance, walk slowly and never run. When possible, walk with your hands free to maintain your balance. And despite the cold temperatures, avoid putting your hands in your pockets. This will help you better maintain your balance and allow you to break a fall should you slip.
- Use handrails, walls or anything stationary to assist in steadying your feet.
- Look ahead to the path in front of you to avoid hazards.
- Test a potentially slippery area before stepping on it by tapping your foot on the surface first.
- Remove debris, water and ice from all working walkways.
- Steer clear of roof edges, floor openings and other drop-offs to avoid slipping hazards.
- Sand or salt surfaces covered by ice or snow to provide traction.
- Dry your shoes or boots on floor mats when entering a building.
- If you’re at work, report trip and fall hazards immediately to your supervisor.
CA Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (Senate Bill 183)
Pay close attention if you own an apartment building or dwelling.
Effective January 1, 2013 building owners of dwellings will be required to install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors, in addition to smoke detectors.
The law is called the “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act”, California Senate Bill 183. It requires building owners to install and maintain carbon monoxide (“CO”) detectors in all dwelling units before January 1, 2013. Such devices must be designed to detect carbon monoxide and to sound an alarm. They must be installed outside each sleeping area or bedroom and each level of every unit and would require that the devices be operable at the time the tenant takes possession of the unit.
Senate Bill 183 requires a tenant to notify the landlord if the tenant becomes aware that the device is inoperable or deficient and would require the landlord to correct the reported inoperability or deficiency. A landlord is not in violation if he/she has not received the notification from the tenant.
The new law does not eliminate the requirement for smoke detectors; that is, both smoke detection and carbon monoxide detection devices are required.
Information is available on the internet regarding the new law, and you can see the actual law HERE.
If you haven’t already done so, it is suggested that you install carbon monoxide detectors as soon as possible to your building if you own one. These detectors are readily available at many local retail outlets and internet sellers.
1985 Product Liability Insurance
I’ve been in the insurance industry just short of five years now helping business owners with their insurance needs. If I could turn back the clock 27 years, it would be a dream for me to write product liability insurance for this awesome product, the music vest. Treat your eyes to this gem:
Insurance Claims Tips for Retailers
Unfortunately, even the best-run retail stores can experience accidents, thefts or other losses. While an insurance policy provides important protection in case of a covered loss, retailers can take some simple steps to protect their business before and during the claim process.
Have Important Information Ready
- Inspect and inventory your property. As a matter of standard business practice, take a full inventory of all your property — both stock and other business property.
- Take photos or videos to supplement your written records. Being able to verify ownership of your inventory and other property is key to any property claim.
- Inspect your property regularly to document conditions both inside and out, and document your findings. Maintain a file of original purchase invoices.
- Keep insurance information handy. Keep your insurance policy number and contact information for your insurance carrier’s Claims Department in an easily accessible place, both at your business and somewhere off premises.
If You Need to Make a Claim
File the Claim. Claims professionals are experienced in helping businesses recover from a loss. They can provide helpful advice and guide you through the claims process.
In the Event of a Theft
- If your business should experience a theft, taking note of the details can make your claim a much smoother process.
- Notify the police. Be sure to obtain the case or complaint number and the precinct or department information.
- Gather alarm company information. If you have an alarm company, obtain the contact information and note the make and model of their system.
- Gather surveillance information. If you have surveillance camera tapes or videos, retrieve the tapes as soon as possible.
- Make a list of claimed items. List stolen property and their values. Locate support documentation and original purchase invoices.
- Assign a spokesperson. Determine who is the most knowledgeable insured to discuss this loss with the insurance company, make sure they have or can get the needed information and can act as the contact person for your business.
- Secure the premises. Protect your premises from further intrusion by boarding up broken glass, repairing locks, etc.
In Case of a Medical Accident
- Get medical help. If there is a medical emergency, get immediate medical help for any injured person. If there is doubt whether medical help is necessary, err on the side of caution.
- Collect information. Obtain contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident to share with the proper authorities. Show genuine concern, but never discuss liability or fault. Take the time to observe the scene of the accident.
- Take a picture. Pictures of possible defects or other property damage can sometimes make a big difference in adjusting a claim. Take a picture or make a video of the place where the incident occurred. Note possible contributing factors, such as weather conditions.
- Protect the scene. Secure the scene of the incident to prevent people from entering the area. Redirect people away from affected walkways or parking areas.
- Secure a defective product. If a defective product is involved in the claim, protect it so that it can be examined later. Make sure no one can use, remove, tamper with or alter it.
No business expects to have to make an insurance claim. But by being prepared — both before and after the unexpected happens — you can help to protect your retail store and make your claims process as easy and straightforward as it can be.
Source: The Hartford Loss Control ServicesThese details are provided for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a subsitute for individual legal counsel or advice on issues discussed here. Readers seeking resolution of specific legal issues or business concerns related to the topic should consult their attorney and/or insurance representative.
Booze At the Office Holiday Party?
How many times have you been to a company holiday party with an open bar where the booze is flowing and everyone’s getting loose? As the night progresses you begin to see that one co-worker of yours getting sloppy and progressively more sloshed? The words start to slur and the volume picks up as the inhibitions fall. Maybe it was you? Heck, maybe it was everyone there. Who knows what can happen from there!
An office holiday party can be a nice way to mark the season and to share a little warmth and appreciation with co-workers, but they can also be danger zones where inappropriate behavior could lead to highly unforeseen consequences. Employers want to share their appreciation for their employees and allow them to have a little fun, but serving alcohol at the office holiday party can be a huge source of potential disaster.
Some people interpret office parties as an invitation to let their guard down in ways that are a liability to the company. It is no big revelation that infusing a holiday party with alcohol can lead to lowered inhibitions and poor judgment. Even a well-meaning and otherwise mild-mannered employee might throw out an inappropriate joke or comment after a few drinks. And even if the party itself ends without incident, employers can still be liable for any harm caused by an intoxicated employee on his or her way home.
Alcohol consumption just might be the most sensitive issue an employer must consider when planning an office holiday party. Sure, employers can always opt to have a nonalcoholic gathering (party like it’s prohibition) which would significantly reduce the likelihood of booze-induced problems, but this might be a little extreme to some. Short of complete ban of alcohol, employers might want to consider some of the following options, and implement measures specific to the makeup of their workforce:
- Have an all-cash bar, and staff it with a professional bartender.
- Cut off the free flow of alcohol well before the party ends.
- Provide employees with a specific number of drink tickets redeemable at the bar.
- Restrict the type of alcohol available, either none or only beer and wine
- Provide plenty of food to balance the effect of a couple drinks.
- Provide for company-paid taxis to ensure a safe trip home for any employees who drink at the holiday party.
- Collect car keys from employees who drink.
- Offer door prizes to employees who volunteer as designated drivers.
- Station a high-level management employee at the exit to wish everyone goodnight, while monitoring for tipsy party-goers.
- Hold the party at a location that discourages driving, such as a hotel
- Invite deterrents. Sometimes the presence of a spouse or significant other can help employees keep their behavior and their drinking under control.
- Holiday party hosts should be on the lookout for any revelers who have overindulged and take whatever steps are appropriate, including ensuring that no further alcohol is consumed by such employees and arranging for transportation.
Maybe you have other ideas that are just as effective. Whatever it might be, even if you take every measure in the book to curb liability, there is no guarantee that nothing problematic will happen. I’m not saying to let your worries get the best of you to the point you can’t enjoy your own party, but don’t turn your head and look the other way if a dicey situation arises. Who knows what can happen when you throw booze into the equation. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
What Is A Claims Made Insurance Policy?
Two different methods are used by insurance companies to determine coverage when writing liability insurance:
- “claims made” policies
- “occurrence” policy
Most often, commercial general liability insurance is written on an occurrence basis while employee benefits liability, professional liability and employment practices liability insurance will be written on a claims-made coverage form.
On an “occurrence” policy, the coverage trigger is the date of the event or accident giving rise to a claim. The policy in force on the date of the event causing the loss must respond with both defense and/or indemnity. Even if a claim arises years after a policy has expired, the date you receive notice of the claim doesn’t matter. Occurrence policies do not provide coverage for prior acts. They do remain available for claims that arise years after a policy term has expired, however. If an accident or event occurs during the term of an occurrence policy, that policy must respond to any future claim.
As for claims-made policies, coverage is triggered by the date you first became aware and notify the insurance carrier of a claim or potential claim. The carrier’s policy in force on the date you became aware and give notice is the insurer who must defend and settle the claim. A claims-made policy may reach back in time and provide coverage for claims made today from negligent acts, errors or omissions that occurred years before the policy was purchased.
The following conditions must be met before prior acts coverage is granted:
- You must receive notification of a claim or potential claim situation during the policy period.
- The claim or potential claim situation must be reported to the insurer during the policy period.
- The negligent act, error or omission giving rise to the claim must occur after a “prior acts” or “retroactive” date listed in the policy declarations.
- You or your firm had no prior knowledge of a mistake, error or controversy on the date coverage was purchased.
The “prior acts” or “retroactive” date is a crucial piece in a claims-made policy. Your policy declarations page will clearly identify a “retroactive” date that determines how far back prior acts coverage extends. Claims resulting from services rendered before the “retroactive” date are not covered.
Think before you decide to cancel or non-renew your claims made liability policy
If you decide to cancel or not renew your claims-made policy, you must consider purchasing an Extended Reporting Period or “TAIL” coverage to insure you for incidents which occurred while the policy was in force but was reported after the policy was cancelled. For example:
If you purchased a claims-made policy with an effective date of January 1, 2010 and chose to cancel or let the policy lapse without TAIL coverage or an Extended Reporting Period — any claims made after December 31, 2010 would not be covered. If you were sued in 2012 for a wrongful act committed in 2010 (during which time you were covered), the insurance company would not be responsible for paying any claim. An Extended Reporting Period Endorsement (TAIL) “extends your right to report a claim” to your prior insurance company after the policy has ended, canceled or lapsed.
As I often note, make sure your insurance agent is knowledgeable and experienced with claims made insurance forms. It gets complicated. Also, note that I am writing this from an insurance perspective; only to be used for informational purposes! My intent isn’t to provide legal advice here. That’s what lawyers are for…
Not So Fun Business Injury Facts
Businesses deal with risk everyday. Whether it be liability risks such as injuries to employees or customers, or property loss risks such as fire or theft, businesses must implement risk control and risk management procedures to protect their operations. Of course, accidents happen and this is why insurance is necessary. Here are six (not so fun) injury facts courtesy of Travelers Insurance:
- 25,000 slip and fall accidents occur daily in the U.S., accounting for 15 percent of all workplace accidents. It is also the leading injury to people on company premises.
- Back injuries account for more lost work time than any other workplace injury. Often, the source is improper lifting.
- Fires in commercial buildings cost more than $2 billion in annual property damage and loss. Lack of, or improper maintenance of sprinkler systems plays a significant role.
- Musculoskeletal disorders results in over $45 billion in loss wages and productivity costs. Organized office workstations and poor ergonomic practices are contributors.
- Adverse weather is the leading cause of vehicle accidents and fatalities. Many company drivers don’t understand the risk or how to adjust their driving behaviors.
- Falls from ladders injure over 20,000 American workers annually. Some injuries result in permanent disabilities and even fatalities. Safety starts before the ladder is even mounted.
General Liability Insurance – Medical Expenses Coverage
As it has been established, general liability coverage is for situations where a third-party claims you or your business was negligent for bodily injury or property damage and sues for those damages. General liability protects your business against incidents that may occur on your premises or at other covered locations where you normally conduct business. When you look at the declarations pages on your commercial general liability policy, it looks like this:
|BUSINESS LIABILITY||LIMITS OF INSURANCE|
|LIABILITY AND MEDICAL EXPENSES||$1,000,000|
|MEDICAL EXPENSES – ANY ONE PERSON||$10,000|
|PERSONAL AND ADVERTISING INJURY||$1,000,000|
|DAMAGES TO PREMISES RENTED TO YOU||$300,000|
|PRODUCTS-COMPLETED OPERATIONS AGGREGATE||$2,000,000|
Business owners often wonder what the medical expenses coverage entails. They sometimes ask why this limit is so low in comparison to the other limits listed? “Medical expenses are costly, why only $10,000 limits here?” The answer to this question is, where liability coverage is for situations where a third-party claims your negligence for bodily injury or property damage, the medical payments coverage is an exception, as it pays medical expenses for bodily injury to third parties as a result of your operations regardless of fault.
People are less likely to sue you if they receive prompt medical payments to cover the costs of any injuries they have sustained for which they could claim your business or organization is liable. Medical Payments coverage gets the payments to them without their having to file a lawsuit or go to court and engage in a lengthy claims process. This coverage also allows your insurer to pay small nuisance claims without the need for costly legal expenses.
If there is a liability claim and medical expenses are paid, but a lawsuit still arises, general liability will still protect for a covered claim. The purpose of medical expense coverage, however, is to prevent this from happening.
Risky Business? There’s a Surplus Lines Insurance Carrier For That
Most businesses have no difficulty getting insurance in the “standard” insurance market, but if your business has a significant loss history or is engaged in high-risk operations, you might not be able to find insurance in the standard commercial insurance market. This doesn’t mean you’re out of luck as a business owner. Rather, you’ll be looking at the “surplus” lines insurance market for your business insurance.
The surplus lines insurance market, also referred to as the “non-admitted” market, is a segment in the insurance industry where the more difficult or unusual risks are written. Examples of specialized risks include professional liability insurance or high risk business operations such as a manufacturer of medical devices or explosives.
Insurance brokers usually turn to the surplus lines market for their clients after they are denied by at least three state licensed “standard” commercial insurance carriers. Most states identify the standard lines insurance companies as “admitted,” “licensed” or “standard” and the excess and surplus lines insurance companies as “non-admitted,” “unlicensed” or “non-standard.” However, these terms tend to reflect a negative connotation in regards to the strength and security of a surplus lines insurer. The fact of the matter is, most states require surplus lines insurance companies to maintain higher minimum capital levels than they require admitted markets to carry.
As for obtaining insurance for a tough-to-place businesses, the surplus lines insurance market can only be accessed through a specially licensed broker. The broker must have a surplus lines license in order to sell surplus lines insurance. Your broker must provide you with a disclosure notice if your insurance is being issued with a surplus lines company.
Now, for a cheesy analogy to tie this all together, insurance is a lot like love. They say there’s someone out there for everyone. Well when it comes to insurance, there’s an insurance carrier out there for every business. Surplus lines insurance carriers help make the business world go round.