Business and property owners must keep their property safe for customers and guests. But a recent report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau indicates that dubious slip and fall legal claims continued to increase in 2019. Property owners should take precautions so they can preserve an effective premises liability defense against these claims.
The NICB analyzed 6,471 questionable insurance claims. Of these claims, 56 percent were claimed on the business’ commercial general liability policy, 15 percent on a commercial liability policy and eight percent filed under commercial multi-perils policies.
Business polices accounted for 79 percent of all the slip and fall claims that were studied. Most of these claims occurred at retail stores, parking lots and restaurants. There was a two percent increase in these questionable claims from 2017 through 2019.
New York, California, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania had the most potential insurance fraud scams for slip and fall accidents. New York and Florida had a 30 percent increase of false slip and fall claims from 2017 to 2019. New York had the highest number of claims for American cities.
There was also a 39 percent rise in these claims for personal property homeowner policies. These policies constituted 11 percent of all dubious slip and fall claims in 2019.
Scammers are continuing to use tried and true methods. NICB investigators witnessed cases where a scammer hired witnesses to sign statements falsely attesting that they were present when a scammer purportedly fell and received injuries. In another case, a scammer claimed that they were injured at work but never returned to their job after an examination showed there were no injuries.
There were possible changes to these schemes in 2020 because of business closures. Signs of fraudulent claims include:
- Use of props such as broken glasses to magnify the claim.
- Overly enthusiastic witnesses.
- The claimant makes threats to go to an attorney and is overly familiar with insurance terms and procedures.
- A claimant who is a vacationer or lives away from the area.
Property owners can take actions to help protect themselves:
- Install video systems at businesses that can record accidents or scammers and serve as evidence in a lawsuit.
- Keep common areas at businesses and homes free of any tripping hazards.
- Consistent employee interaction with customers in retail stores that make it more difficult for scammers to create an accident.
- Awareness of common household items that could be used by a scammer such as a hose on walkway, items poorly stacked on a yard or toys.
Attorneys can help determine the validity of claims and accidents. Lawyers may also mount a legal defense against fraudulent claims.