Don't Let a Valuable Witness Slip Away
Aug 29, 2019

 “Slip and fall” cases plague retailers, especially for supermarkets and department stores. For Gallagher retail clients, slip and fall cases make up 45% of all claims reported. According to the National Safety Council, there were 29,830 injuries and 29 deaths related to falls in the retail workplace.


To help defend against these claims, retailers have video cameras in strategic locations to capture any slip and fall accident. The video recording helps retailers assess the incident and come to a determination on whether there was fault.


Videos are key witnesses to the claim process.


In a roundtable discussion with Gallagher Bassett retail experts from Loss Control, Operations and Account Management, the group shared their experiences for video use and retention that resulted in successful outcomes.


It's All in the Timing

It’s critical to secure the video as soon as there is an established claim. This can be a challenge in circumstances were the claimant did not report at the time of the accident.  Also, there may be storage limitations, or older footage may be erased from the database.


Establish claim handler protocols for the speed at which they need to obtain the video based on the severity of the injury.  One retailer employs a preservation timeline where incidents requiring video footage are grouped into 3 categories: 

Red: Completion Timeline 24-72 Hrs

  • Any injury that would be classified as severe
  • Any fatality
  • Customer assault
  • Late notice claims or situations where video is in imminent danger of being deleted

Yellow: Completion Timeline 3-7 Days

  • Any moderate injury
  • Moderate to severe property damage
  • Cases of potential fraud for any coverage category
  • Attorney representation letters and preservation requests
  • Allegations of false arrest
  • Invasion of privacy claims
  • Allegation employee bumped into customer

Green: Completion Timeline 7-14 days

  • Minor injuries
  • Medical emergencies (such as heart attack, seizure, syncope)


While these categories are a guide for claim handlers, they may need to customize preservation efforts relative to the risk of video being deleted or overwritten, and the potential for litigation based upon the jurisdiction of the claim. 


Don't Stop the Clock

If possible, give claim handlers direct access to the business or their video vendor. This will smooth the process of obtaining the video.


By eliminating as many “middlemen” as possible, claim handlers can quickly obtain copies of the video. For instance, if a legal department insists on reviewing the video prior to sending to a claim’s administrator, gain their commitment to quick turnaround time.   


Video Footage

  • Maintain consistent video footage standards and ensure claims administrators understand them.  Should they anticipate the footage will capture the full shopping episode?  Will it be the entire shopping experience or just 10 min before and 10 min after the alleged accident? 
  • How many camera angles are captured, location of cameras and how long will the video be stored?  Who is the best point of contact, in the event there is a question about the footage? 
  • If your stores get new equipment be sure your claim handlers are aware and trained on the new equipment’s capabilities.
  • If these standards are consistent across all locations, ask your Account Manager to share these guidelines in your client service instructions.
  • Understand video surveillance laws and whether or not the video has to be shared with a customer who demands to see it; strategize with your claim administrator on when and if you are required share the video with the customer or their attorney at any point in the claim.


Time Keeps on Ticking, Ticking

Set specific and agreed deadlines for review of the footage upon receipt to ensure it is the correct video, and to address any issues with the content that will prevent the use of it in the ongoing investigation.


Provide training to claim handlers and loss control agents on how to assess video footage for making accurate liability assessments. 

  • Ensure there is proper storage on the third-party administrator’s system and requirements for when video footage can be erased or overwritten.
  • Establish strict guidelines for chain of evidence


As technology becomes more sophisticated and more affordable, video footage of an accident will be available from every angle in the store. What will not change? The need to partner with a claim’s administrator to ensure all parties know how to handle this critical record. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words! 


Mary McGurn has 30 years of industry experience and leads the Retail Practice at GB. You can find her on LinkedIn

Jill Alfano has 15 years of claims operational experience, including managing all lines of Property & Causality claims. You can find her on LinkedIn.


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