Slip and Fall Claims on the Rise Nationally1, Insurance Fraud — By Trace America on June 26, 2012 at 2:51 PM
While questionable slip-and-fall claims are on the rise nationally, one place they have seen a decrease in numbers is Ohio; but don’t assume they don’t have their share as well.
According to industry data and experts, along with the Middletown Journal, it is assumed that insurance claims for suspicious slip-and-fall incidents are sometimes due to the poor economy. Many people are being motivated to stage these intentional “accidents” in the hopes of cashing in.
On the other hand however, slip-and-fall claims can lead to higher insurance premiums and expensive litigation or payouts from the victim’s store. Phony falls can also affect consumers because those businesses often raise prices to cover the costs associated with the claims.
“Many people have legitimate accidents in stores and businesses, but there is a growing number of cases that have some indicators of potential fraud,” said Mary Bonelli, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Insurance Institute.
When the falls aren’t the kind that are planned ahead of time, the owners of those properties may be held legally responsible if they were negligent and failed to remove the hazards that led to a visitor or employee’s fall.
According to insurers, slip and falls are one of the leading causes of injury to customers and employees, with the settlement for the injured costing tens of thousands of dollars or more.
The majority of slip-and-fall insurance claims arise from legitimate accidents, but some falls are staged by unscrupulous individuals who target businesses and their insurance companies in the hopes of earning sizable paydays, said Frank Scafidi, spokesman with the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
To carry out their “accidents,” many people will pour a liquid or place a small object on the floor of a business and then intentionally slip on the item.
Officials stated that the scammers will often then try and take the business owners for cash by threatening to sue them, or by filing a lawsuit that seeks compensation. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), about 2,168 insurance claims were submitted last year for referral because they were questionable. This was up from 1,944 questionable claims in 2010.
As previously mentioned, Ohio is the only place that seemed to reject this trend, with their questionable claims falling by 12% in 2011.
Still, the bureau from Ohio’s Miami Valley did receive seven questionable claims in the last two years. Robert Denhard, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Insurance, also noted that they receive “a fair amount” of complaints for bogus slip and fall cases. He noted that consumers have filed dozens of civil lawsuits against businesses and groups in the area, demanding sizable compensation awards for injuries allegedly sustained after these types of incidents.
Scafidi stated that businesses can combat bogus slip and fall claims by using surveillance equipment that can catch scammers in the act.
He also noted however that for small business, the sophisticated security systems may not be an option, therefore making it very difficult to prove that a fall was faked without the video proof.
Elizabeth Stelzer, a spokeswoman for Nationwide insurance company, said there are more people attempting slip-and-fall scams, and there also are some active groups of organized criminals who attempt the scams repeatedly.
She said Nationwide works with businesses to teach them how to recognize these types of scams. They also encourage businesses to utilize their time after a slip and fall accident by writing incident reports, interviewing all witnesses at the scene, taking photographs and making sure to save the surveillance video.
This post is authored by Trace America.