It is November 2013 and you’ve received notification that there is an insurance claim, or worse, a slip-and-fall lawsuit. Oh, and this incident occurred in December 2011.
Can you tell the story of what occurred on that property, to the minute, nearly two years later? You’ll need to do this throughout the case. Those are the details a plaintiff’s attorney is hoping you can’t recall.
Key documentation that protects you is gained before the job starts, and ends well after it’s completed. Let me explain.
Training. Attorneys will want you to prove you’re training your employees. Simple log-in sheets for seminars, tailgate talks, and any other training are acceptable. Include the trainer’s name, the time and date of the seminar, the topic and have each person autograph the sign-in sheet. This should also be done in your service-provider meetings, as well, when you are reviewing client expectations.
Preseason inspection reports. Maps of your clients’ properties should include:
- Services to be performed
- Potential risk areas
- Placement of snow piles and snow disposal procedures
- Operating hours
Likewise, note the common-risk areas, such as:
- Low areas in the pavement susceptible to ice formation
- Manhole covers
- Speed bumps
- High-traffic areas
- Existing property damage (especially curbs and potholes)
- Drainage areas
In-event documentation. This includes: crew arrival time; services performed; areas serviced and not serviced; incidents that may have occurred; and crew departure times. I cannot stress enough how critical this documentation is for professional snow and ice managers.
Post-event processes. Define who has responsibility for post-event monitoring in the contracts. It should include weather monitoring – precipitation and temperature – as well as visiting each site to inspect the property for any of the above conditions. If a property needs to be serviced, companies must revert back to the in-event documentation.
Weather service reporting. You should have access to a weather service that employs a certified meteorologist. These reports must include an hourly weather summary for your area. This must include snowfall totals and temperature by the hour.
Documentation is critical. Unfortunately, it is also your best protection in the event of slip-and-fall lawsuit.
Kevin Gilbride is the executive director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org