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January 2004

Fraudulent Slip and Fall Claims

Another way to cash in on business owners

It’s amazing what some people will do for money. They’ll actually risk injury by staging falls so they can sue a business or property owner.

The slip and fall is a common bodily injury scam and one of the most widely practiced types of insurance fraud. Perpetrators threaten litigation against an individual or organization because of a bogus injury sustained from allegedly dangerous conditions.

Don’t be an easy target
“From a prevention standpoint, most fraudulent slip and falls have little to do with the actual physical condition of the premises as being the ‘real’ proximate cause of the alleged injuries,” says Dwight Clinton, Director of Universal Underwriters Insurance Company’s Special Investigations Unit. “Conditions such as an unstable chair, wet floor, loose door on a bathroom stall, or a raised threshold broaden the attraction for someone otherwise pre-disposed to commit fraud.”

Keeping things in top shape will help prevent legitimate accidents that could injure a valued employee or customer. That’s not to say it will deter someone from pulling a fast one on you. But it will force them to work harder, and that may make the fraud easier to detect.

“When customer areas are clean and free of known hazards, restrooms are well kept and regularly inspected (inspect restrooms hourly on a rotational basis and maintain inspection logs), and customers are never allowed in any dismantling and shop areas, the perpetrator is forced to engage in embellishments to set forth their claim. And the more they have to stretch their story, the better defense our investigation can bring to bear on our decision to question the overall circumstances of the loss,” Dwight explains.

Precautions
Remember that most claims are legitimate and should be treated as such. If someone slips and falls on your property, Dwight recommends taking these precautions just in case the accident was staged:
•Immediately take photos of the area to document the general surroundings and location where the slip and fall occurred. “It’s important to capture the area as it was when the fall occurred,” Dwight says.
•Complete an accident report, and take notes to document observations. Dwight emphasizes that you should do this discretely in every instance, even when claimants insist they are not injured and don’t want to make a formal report. Jot down names, phone numbers and addresses of potential witnesses. Ask them to write down what they saw and, equally important, what they didn’t see.

Encourage safety
Encourage everyone in your business to take personal responsibility for ensuring a safe environment by correcting potentially hazardous conditions or promptly bringing them to management’s attention, Dwight recommends.

A safe environment will help protect your employees and customers. And it might make your business less tempting to someone looking to cash in on a bogus bodily injury claim.

For information about how Universal Underwriters Group’s Special Account Services Division can help meet the special needs of your automotive recycling business, call 1-800-840-8842, ext. 4845, visit our website at www.UniversalUnderwriters.com or e-mail at uuic.specaccts@zurichna.com.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. Please consult with qualified legal counsel to address your particular circumstances and needs. Universal Underwriters Group is not providing legal advice and assumes no liability concerning the information set forth above.


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