Categorized | Insurance

“Peanut Plaintiff” and Slip and Fall Suits

What exactly is a hired auto and how is it covered under your commercial auto policy? You can find the answers in my latest article on Insuring Hired Autos.

Have you heard about the “peanut plaintiff?” She has filed a $1 million lawsuit against a Texas steakhouse, claiming she was injured at the restaurant when she slipped and fell on peanut shells. The steakhouse (which is part of a chain) serves free peanuts and encourages patrons to throw the used shells on the floor. I get the fact that the restaurant wants to stand out from the crowd. But when a business invites customers to throw peanut shells on the floor, it creates what insurers call a “slip and fall hazard.” If the restaurant owners weren’t aware of this previously, they are now thanks to the “peanut plaintiff.”

Slip and Fall

Slip and falls claims are one of the most common types of claims filed against business organizations. Almost any type of business can experience one. Restaurants, retail stores and other businesses that invite members of the public onto their premises are particularly vulnerable. Contractors and other businesses that operate off-premises can be hit with these claims as well since customers can slip and fall at job sites.

Under common law your customers are generally considered invitees. You have an obligation to protect them from harm while they are on your property by exercising reasonable care. This means that you need to maintain your property and keep it reasonably free of risks. If in spite of your efforts someone falls on your property, you may be subject to a claim for bodily injury.

Slips and falls can also lead to workers compensation claims. OSHA says that trips and falls account for a majority of industrial accidents. Check out this short presentation OSHA has prepared on how to prevent slips and falls in the workplace. By taking steps to protect your employees from accidents, you will also be protecting your customers.

Most slip and fall claims will be covered under your general liability policy. A typical claimant is a customer who alleges that he or she fell on your property and seeks damages for bodily injury. Unlike the “peanut plaintiff,” most claimants don’t demand $1 million in damages. Yet, the damages they do seek may be significant for a small business so it is important to notify your insurer of any claim promptly.

Finally, Medical Payments Coverage, which is included in the standard general liability policy, can serve as a hedge against slip and fall claims. A person who has been injured on your premises can obtain reimbursement for his or her medical expenses under your Medical Payments coverage without filing a lawsuit. If the person is paid promptly, he or she may refrain from suing you. The limit provided under Medical Payments is typically only $5,000 or $10,000 so the coverage is intended for small claims.


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