Slip & Fall, Am I liable?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Michael F, Jan 9, 2001.

  1. Michael F

    Michael F Senior Member
    Messages: 203

    I want your opions on this. We plowed & shoveled on Jan 1,5,6. I got a call yesterday (8) that someone had sliped and fallen Jan 4. We were not on the site that day, the contract, written by client, say plow & shovel at 3", or when called, we weren't called. I pulled the newspaper from the two days after said a trace on Jan 3, 2" on Jan 4. We don't salt the site at all, advised them in fall about ice control on walks, never authorized to do so. I talked to purchasing director today, said I don't understand how I'm responsible, as I wasn't authorized to do anything for several days before accident, said I was listed because I was the snowplowing contractor. This company has their own maintenance people tha do shovel & salt walks, when we don't. I forwarded all info to my insurance agent, know I'm covered, just I don't think I'm liable. I'm defininly droping them as clients ASAP. What do you guys think?
  2. MJ

    MJ Senior Member
    Messages: 129

    The lawyer (or whoever) is simply naming everyone even remotely related to the incident in the suit. They'll go after the deepest pockets, which includes your insurance company. I wouldn't take it personally. They're suing your insurance, not you. Take your evidence to your agent and let them take care of it. This country is lawsuit happy and there are a lot of hungry lawyers out there (look in any phone book). Good luck.

  3. RB

    RB Senior Member
    Messages: 197

    You should be ok. On my contract it reads: "Salting shall be performed at the discretion of the Contractor or upon express order of Customer."

    If customers don't want me to salt I substitute the above statement with: "Contractor will provide salting services upon express order of Customer. Because salting services will not be performed at the discretion of the Contractor, Customer will be responsible for controlling ice buildup on parking lot and walkways. Customer will be solely responsible for any claims that are proven to be a result of unsafe conditions due to ice buildup on the parking lot and/or walkways."

    That should protect you in your situation. Anyway, you should not have to worry. It was good you had a contract in place!

  4. John Allin

    John Allin Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    Don't drop the customer because a lawyer named you in a suit. Happens all the time. That's why you have insurance.

    Now... here's the kicker.... You should insist that you speak with the adjuster that is assigned to the case by your insurance carrier. Give HIM all the data. He has the right to 'deny to participate' in the claim based upon the facts. Then the other side MUST sue you to get your insurance company to pay out any dough. Often times the other side won't go to the trouble in a nusiance type claim. Make sure the adjuster has YOUR facts. Don't rely on the agent. Agents are sales people. If you INSIST on speaking with the adjuster, you'll get your side heard soon and with the right people. It is your RIGHT to speak with the adjuster of your insurance carrier - who is working on your behalf.

    If you don't, the insurance company may pay out some money to "make it go away". This sounds good, but it counts as a strike against you (and your loss run).

    I have lots of experience with this sort of thing due to my involvement with ALCA and CNA (I consult to CNA for snow related issues on insurance policies and loss control). If you want to email me directly I can guide you as to how to proceed with your insurance company so that you are certain that they will work for you, as you want them to.

    Keep in mind that this not your customers fault and that this is all part of the snow business.
  5. OP
    Michael F

    Michael F Senior Member
    Messages: 203

    John, the adjuster, from my insurance co. is coming in at 2:30-3pm today to talk to me, get my facts, ect. I do however feel it is clients fault that walks were in condition they were/are in. I drove to three of the branches last night and took pictures, ice all over, all walks in very poor condition, the site we maintain actually looked the best. I had recommened salting ect in fall, they were to cheap, and thier maintence people are responsible for clearing snowfalls less than 3 inches, and they do salt.
  6. OP
    Michael F

    Michael F Senior Member
    Messages: 203

    I had meeting with insuracce adjuster. He said based on what I told him were not liable.
    I asked him if I should drop them as clients. He said his opion was yes, I described
    conditions at sites ice, compacted snow on walks ect. He said he felt they(client) were trying to pass off what is their responsibility, because of poor site conditions(mainentance people not doing their job when we're not there), which are not my responsibility.
    There is enough liability in this business with out taking on more from others poor workmanship.
  7. kutnkru

    kutnkru Member
    Messages: 56

    Opportunity Knocking

    it seems obvious to me that your insurance adjuster wqould stray you away from ANY potential claim. Thats his job. However, I would use this as an opportunity to expand your services to benefit the customer and your income.

    I would offer to salt the walks @ 1" and driveways @ 2". You might be able (if you have the room available) to render Plowing Services in a larger storm beginning at 2".

    I would approach it with his best interests in mind. If he says no, thats fine. Then meetings over and leave graciously.

    After you get home write them a letter explaining why you are discontinuing services because of liability occurances date it for the following day. If they have not increased services ... mail it.

    Food for thought.
  8. John DiMartino

    John DiMartino Veteran
    Messages: 2,154

    if i were going to rebid that job,it would be salting at my descretion,which at times with high foot traffic and cold temps,salt could be needed at under 1".same with driveways,if there is traffic and its cold 1" will need to be salted or you'll have sheer ice everywhere,especailly if its not going to warm up and it overcast.Maybe you could pre-treat the for the small storms and most will melt as it falls,you could go back after the storm and spot treat as necessary.At least with salt down you wont get the bond of ice to blacktop.
  9. jimsmowin

    jimsmowin Senior Member
    Messages: 130

    snowed all day yesterday, melted as it fell,started to lay on ground at 2:30pm. called salt crews in, salted lots and walks, total accumaltion maybe 1/4 inch. take no chance's and word contract carefully.
  10. Dusty

    Dusty Member
    Messages: 82

    This is just one more reason that you should have a Million Dollar umbrella policy. You might not have any liability, but you never know how the judge and jury are going to see it. With the umbrella policy, you have another layer of protection and another company looking out for your interest and they have a lot more to loose, so they work harder to keep you out. If there are 6 people named in the suite and none are removed by the judge, then all will share in the cost of the award. If it is a large one, then you might not have enough insurance in place to cover your part of the claim. Read your policy limits. The first figure is the amount that is paid to any one claimant and the second amount is the total that is paid to ALL claimants. The umbrella policy kicks in after your basic policy limits are exceeded and it will cover all your business operations including the motor vehicle policy.
  11. Bluegrass Lawn Service

    Bluegrass Lawn Service Junior Member
    Messages: 11

    I'm not sure if this works but in my contract I have stated
    that I'm not responsible for accidents before or after snow plowing. I also state that I'm not responsible for black top damage or damage to the unseen and unknown. It states that I will be held blameless and harmless from the above. You guys tell me. I put it on my contract and my bids so they know before anything happens, this is my position.
  12. OP
    Michael F

    Michael F Senior Member
    Messages: 203

    Dusty I am WAYYYYYYYY a head of you on the coverage issue:

    General Aggreate 2,000,000
    Auto 1,000,000
    Umbrella 1,000,000
  13. Dusty

    Dusty Member
    Messages: 82

    With that amount of coverage, you don't have a thing to worry about. You can be sure that they will make sure that you are well represented.