April 13, 2021

Winter Weather Reveals Chilling Risk and Claim Issues

Harsh weather and snowy conditions produce their own claim fallout. Liability hazards from slip and fall accidents accentuate with accumulation of ice, snow and slippery surfaces. People who slip and fall on ice and snow may assert bodily injury claims and allege negligence by property owners failing to clear their property of ice and snow.

Many of these slip and fall claims may culminate in lawsuits, claim files and the need for accident investigations by adjusters. Plaintiffs may allege that the property owner failed to shovel or removed snow, failed to treat or sprinkle walking surfaces with de-icing compound or other substances that would enhance traction.

Even if some of these slip and fall claims are deemed non-meritorious, they will consume significant time, resources and legal expenses to defend.

Large retailers who have parking lots and walkways maybe target defendants in such situations. Injured persons may presume that these entities with vast financial resources also have extensive insurance coverage and high liability limits. This may embolden plaintiffs to pursue premises liability slip and fall claims against big-box stores such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc.

The irony is that many of these big box retailers contract with snow removal services in the off-season. Often, a condition for getting the snow removal contract is that the vendor agree to defend, indemnify and/or hold harmless the large retailer in the event of a bodily injury liability claim. As part of this agreement, the snow removal company may also be required to carry a certain healthy minimum limit of premises liability insurance that includes coverage for completed operations, snow removal, etc. The cost tab for this may run as high as $200,000 a year in insurance premium.

While some plaintiffs make believe that they are suing the big-box retailer, in truth the cost is being borne by a small mom-and-pop snowplow service.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of handling premises liability claims from ice and snow?  Share here or offline at kevin@kevinquinley.com

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