By SnowWolf Staff
Please note that the information presented in this blog is informational only. It doesn’t replace your lawyer or insurance agent’s advice. Always consult your insurance agent or your lawyer for questions pertaining to your policy and contract.
As a relatively new snow fighter, you know that your job to move snow and provide ice management is risky—simply because you’re out in a major storm.
However, have you thought about another risk that’s getting attention in the snow and ice management community?
It’s slip and fall cases.
And it’s an issue that you can’t ignore unless you want to risk losing thousands of dollars in a slip and fall claim.
In this blog, you’ll learn 10 tips to becoming proactive in protecting your snow business as well as your assets when it comes to slip and fall issues.
What is a Slip and Fall Claim?
A slip and fall claim comes when someone slips on ice and then fell resulting in serious injury. The claim comes from the victim who fell at your client’s place of business due to water refreezing on a parking lot, curb, sidewalk or anywhere there could be slippery conditions.
And these claims can be in the tens of thousands of dollars due to medical bills, legal expenses, and court costs.
The Big Question—Who’s Responsible for Slip and Fall Claims?
The trend is leaning toward commercial property owners shifting the responsibility of slip and falls to snow contractors.
You need to be proactive when you sign contracts with your commercial customers. You also need to be well-versed in your insurance policy—making sure that you have enough coverage to pay for a claimant’s medical bills as well as court costs.
Here are ten points you need to keep in mind as you go into another snow fighting season:
1. Know your indemnification: Make sure you read your commercial contract including the fine print. Your client may add an indemnification clause making you responsible for any slip and fall claims. If you need to, hire a lawyer to read over your contract and commercial liability insurance to make sure you’re not held responsible for any slip and fall claims.
2. Ice-watcher or ice-monitor: If you do sign a commercial contract that makes you partially or wholly responsible for slip and fall cases, you need to make sure that you have someone ice-watch. An ice-monitor or ice-watcher is someone who watches parking lots, sidewalks and other areas for water refreeze. They then apply deicer to the surface to prevent anyone from falling and hurting themselves. Make sure you’re compensated for the extra man-hours and materials used when ice-monitoring.
3. If your client asks you to use less salt to save their company money, make sure you aren’t liable for any slip and fall claims resulting from improper snow and ice management. And get it all in writing.
4. If there is a hint that the property owner wants to shift liability onto you, make sure your lawyer reviews the contract before you sign it. Legalese can be confusing, and you don’t want to be responsible for something you didn’t understand.
5. You can shift responsibility for slip and fall claims back onto the client by having your indemnification clause in your contract—especially for clients who want to take shortcuts on plowing and de-icing their properties days after the snow event where refreezing occurs and raises the risk for slip and falls.
6. Your contract should state that property managers are responsible for inspecting their properties for refreezing and request additional snow and ice services if necessary. Granted, you’ll probably get some push-back from property managers. And yet, this part of your contract is necessary if the client refuses to follow up on checking their walkways and parking lots for refreezing. It also saves you money from having an employee sit around in a truck waiting to take care of black ice that may develop in the middle of the afternoon or early evening.
7. When you do your pre-season risk assessment, make a note of where curbs, steps, walkways, cart carrels and run-off sites are located. If you provide sidewalk services, make sure you treat the hidden threats, such as curbs and steps for ice—even when you provide follow-up services days after the snow event.
8. Before the snow season begins, review your commercial liability insurance with your agent to make sure you and your snow business are protected. Know what’s covered and what’s not covered by your insurance. And make sure you get a plan that isn’t the same as the one for your green industry business. It’s vital that you have commercial liability insurance specifically written for your snow and ice services because of the amount of liability involved.
9. Know what your insurance won’t cover. The exclusion piece of your insurance policy can be very long, so prepare yourself to read it carefully. Again, depending on the scope of your business and level of risk, you may want to hire a local lawyer to help you sift through it.
Here are some exclusions you may see on your policy:
- If there are work-related injuries, your employees are covered by worker’s compensation.
- Any liability you assume through your client contracts—even if the incident is within the scope of your commercial general liability insurance.
- Damage to property that is within your control. You can avoid these types of accidents when you visit customer sites during the pre-season.
10. Make sure you read and understand your insurance policy. For example, make sure every piece of equipment that will be used to push snow and deice properties are in the policy. Read the definition of terms on your policy to help you understand any unfamililar terms. You’re more in control of your situation when you’re fully armed with knowledge of what’s your responsibility and what’s not.
Granted, landing a big client seems like a giant gift. However, gifts can turn into nightmares when you only peruse your insurance policy and glimpse over the contract before you sign.
Take control of your business and your liability by taking care to go over all contracts and policies with a fine-toothed comb.
Here are some links for you to read more about protecting yourself from slip and fall liability: