A man and his friend went to a rental store to pick up equipment for a remodeling job at his home. He and his buddy entered the store and he turned to make sure the door was shut. At the same time, he made his first step toward the service counter. He tripped on an unforeseen step-up, which caused him to fall to the concrete floor. As he fell, he tried to break his fall and stuck out his arm. His arm hurt and he was embarrassed so he went back outside and left the store.
The injured man didn’t let anyone know he was injured that day and had not contacted the rental store employees since then, so the owner of the store didn’t report the incident to his insurance company when it happened. He thought the man was OK.
They did decide to put up a “Watch Your Step” sign a short while after the accident at the suggestion of their insurance agent who stopped by to discuss their policy’s renewal. The edge of the step already was painted red, but they thought a sign within most people’s field of vision would help prevent future accidents.
They placed a sign on the outside of the door and another one above the step at eye level. They also added yellow paint to the edge of the step and stenciled “Watch Your Step” hoping it would make it more visible.
Nearly two years later, an attorney for the injured man sent a letter to the rental store. He was demanding $100,000 to compensate his client for the injuries he sustained in the rental store the day he fell.
The owner of the rental store sent the letter to his insurance company and requested that a claim be opened. He stated at the time of the accident, he was there working. He said that when the man fell, he got up and went back outside. He didn’t indicate he was hurt and as far as the owner knows he didn’t come back into the store that day or at any other time.
When the attorney was contacted to discuss the accident, he mentioned that the rental store employees must have realized there was a problem since the signs were added. He had been by the rental store and saw the signs his client said were not there the day he fell.
The man suffered a broken arm and wrist and had $20,000 in medical bills and lost wages due to the time he needed to take off work after the accident.
The man had some responsibility in the accident because he did not watch where he was going, but he didn’t have any reason to think the floor was not level or that there was a 3-in. step just inside the entry door. After much discussion back and forth, the claim settled far below the attorney’s original demand of $100,000.
Just as you want to provide equipment for rent that is both reliable and in good operating condition, you also should take steps to make your store as safe as possible. Try entering your store not as an employee, but as a customer would. See if you see anything that might be dangerous or a cause for concern.
Mary Ann Gormly is a loss analyst for ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan. For more information, call 800-821-6580 or visit ARAinsure.com.