How to Reduce Your Liability When it Snows

snow removal company

If you own a business on commercial property, you should know that you can be liable for slips and falls on your property. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that approximately 1 million American’s are injured each year from falling on snow and ice. People suffer from a variety of ailments due to falls, including muscle sprains, fractures, broken bones, issues with their spine, and even concussions. Around 17,000 of the falls due to snow and ice are fatal.

As a business owner, you have plenty on your mind to worry about. You don’t need to worry about whether it is snowing outside or how much snow has fallen. In addition, some insurance liability policies for businesses now exclude injuries resulting from snow removal activities such as shoveling. So even if you have insurance, it may not be enough. Having a contract with a snow removal company can give you peace of mind and protect your business from liability this winter.

Questions to Consider

Depending on the location of your business within the state of Illinois, there may be different laws and ordinances regarding snow removal. Regulations can vary from city to city. As the snow here begins to fall this winter, there are several key questions that you can ask yourself:

Do you have a reputable snow and ice removal company on standby that will come out when things become snowy and icy?

If you don’t have a contract in place with a company already, what’s stopping you from getting one?

Hiring someone last minute on the day snow begins to fall, and ice begins to form can be tricky. Most will already be busy helping existing customers. It’s often wiser to have your business already set up with a contractor who is ready to go and has you on a priority list to come out the second they see snow falling. Setting up your contract with a snow and ice removal company early in the season, even before the winter season, is best.

If you do have a contract in place, what are the terms?

Is the contract with the snow removal company a zero-tolerance contract? Will they come to treat your sidewalks at the first sign of snow? If it’s not, how much snow or ice needs to accrue before they come out? The last thing you need is someone getting hurt from a little snowfall that could have been taken care of and removed with some ice melt.

It’s important to inquire to make sure that the contractor you’re hiring is both insured and licensed specifically for snow removal. You can verify this by asking for their certificates of insurance. The contractor you hire should also have policies that help protect you as a business owner from lawsuits.

How will you communicate winter conditions to customers, clients, and staff?

Some companies prefer an internal form of communication, especially for their staff. There are also external options for communication, however, such as social media or the company newsletter. Don’t leave people wondering if your business is open or not, and definitely don’t forget to communicate with people when you’ve made the decision to close. The last thing you want is to have a potential customer showing up when your doors are closed, especially if there’s an added risk of them slipping on snow and holding you responsible.

What does your liability contract look like? Do you have the proper coverage for damage to property, personal injury, and worker’s compensation claims?

Things to look for in your liability contract include ensuring you are protected from any costs related to property damage and death or injury to those on the property of the business. If possible, bundle the policies you have so that there are no gaps in coverage. This can also save you money. It’s also important to make sure that you review the liability coverage you have annually to ensure that your coverage is still adequate for your business and that you are receiving the best rate possible. Also, ensure that your coverage does in fact cover snow. Many liability policies now exclude snow, and sometimes you will need a separate policy.

The winter season can be the best season for your business, bringing in the holiday cheer as well as the holiday shoppers. But to make the most of the season, it’s best to ensure your insurance is up to date and that you have a snow removal contract in place.