Injured at a Business? How to File an Insurance Claim for Compensation

If you were injured on business property, you may be entitled to compensation. Learn more about filing an insurance claim.

Customer fall accidents and other injuries are among the top ten insurance claims for small businesses, with average payouts up to $30,000 per claim.¹

The law requires business owners to take reasonable steps to make their properties safe. They must take adequate safety measures to protect visitors from avoidable harm.

When you’ve been injured on business property, you have a right to pursue compensation from the at-fault business owner. Minor injury claims can often be settled out of court, but more serious injury cases often require filing a lawsuit to get fair compensation.

Business owners are not automatically on the hook for every injury that happens on their property. Liability for injuries at a business depends on several factors.

Business Owner Safety Responsibilities

Business owners are obligated to keep their property safe for customers and employees. Regular maintenance of the building and fixtures is important.

Businesses must look for and correct unsafe conditions such as:

  • Wet Floors: Spills and drips should be cleaned. Safety mats can be used at entrances during wet weather. Slick areas should be marked with “wet floor” warning signs.
  • Sidewalks: Snow and ice should be cleared off in a reasonable amount of time, with appropriate salt, sand, or other treatments to prevent falls. Walkways should be kept in good repair to avoid uneven surfaces, cracks, or holes.
  • Parking Lots: Parking areas and travel lanes should be marked. The parking lot surface should be maintained to avoid cracks and potholes. Safety lighting is recommended. As needed, snow and ice should be removed.
  • Physical Obstacles: They must avoid loose cords, sharp edges on retail store racks and shelves, improperly stacked merchandise, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Doors: Doors should allow easy customer movement in and out of the business, including customers with assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers. Doors, including refrigerator and freezer doors, should be as safe as possible to avoid hand and face injuries.

Businesses like tattoo parlors, spas, and hair salons must ensure a sanitary and safe environment to prevent infections and other injuries.

Business Liability Insurance

Business owners can protect themselves from the high cost of customer accidents by purchasing property liability insurance, also called premises liability insurance.

It’s up to each owner to decide how much insurance to buy. The higher the policy limit, the higher the insurance premium. A small business property may carry much lower limits than a mega-chain store. When the business owner’s insurance policy doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your injuries, the business owner often must pay the difference.

Don’t be tricked into giving up your rights to pursue further compensation. If the business owner’s policy limits won’t cover your damages, contact a personal injury attorney.

Some business owners have no choice when it comes to their policy limits. When a business borrows money from a bank or other lending institution, the lender will often require the owner to carry liability insurance with limits high enough to cover the loan amount.

Common Injuries on Business Properties

There are many types of injuries associated with business properties because there are many types of businesses. The physical environments can vary widely.

The most common injuries at businesses include:

  • Slip and falls on slippery hard surfaces
  • Elevator and escalator injuries
  • Shopping cart injuries
  • Head and neck injuries from falling merchandise or inventory
  • Cuts, abrasions, and lacerations caused by sharp objects like showcases or counters
  • Door injuries like faulty doors that slam on a customer’s face or hands
  • Overcrowding. resulting in customers trampling and shoving
  • Falls in parking lots due to ice, snow, potholes, and other hazards
  • Assaults in parking lots and other areas
  • Poisoning from food or drink
  • Puncture wounds from clothing pins, sharp objects, shopping carts, etc.

Filing a Business Insurance Claim for Injury

While liability insurance does provide business owners protection from injury claims, insurance companies don’t automatically cut a check when someone is injured.

Even when a business carries premises liability or general liability insurance, your claim might be denied. For example, COVID-19 insurance claims can be flatly denied by insurers who say the policy doesn’t cover alleged harm from viruses.

Before the insurance company accepts your claim, you have to prove you were legitimately on the property and that the business owner is to blame for your injuries. Insurers are always on the lookout for fake slip and fall claims.

Why You Were There Makes a Difference

Do you have an invitation? That may sound silly, but in legal jargon, it means you had a valid reason to visit the business.

Express invitations are in the form of personal invitations to special events, or through advertising on radio, television, billboards, signs on buses, park benches, and other forms of advertising.

Implied invitations are people who walk in off the street, find the business through the internet, repeat customers, and others who generally know about the business and know they’re welcome to come onto the property for such things as eating, shopping, doctors’ appointments, etc.

Business property liability insurance will generally only pay claims for two classes of visitors:

  1. Invitees are people the business has given an express or implied invitation. An invitee is a visitor allowed on the property to conduct business. Invitees are customers at a restaurant, shopping mall, or another business establishment. Invitees can also be contractors and on the property to make repairs. So long as you’re on the property for business purposes, you’re an invitee.
  2. Licensees are people who have invitations, or believe they do, onto the business owner’s property, but not for business purposes. In this situation, “license” means permission. Licensees are social guests, friends, children, and others the owner invites for non-business purposes. If your child gets injured in a Walmart, the child was there as a licensee.

Businesses that typically have both invitees and licensees include:

Insurance companies will typically deny injury claims made by a person who was not authorized to be on the property.

Trespassers are people who enter a business property without a lawful express or implied invitation. Trespassers have no legitimate business or personal reason to be on the property. Once a business owner knows a trespasser is on the property, the owner should take reasonable steps to get the trespasser off the property.

Although personal injury law varies from state to state, if a business owner knows there’s a dangerous condition on the property and takes no action to get rid of the trespasser, the property owner may have to take legal responsibility for the trespasser’s injuries.

Although it’s unlikely a trespasser will win if they sue the business in court, if an injured trespasser files a personal injury lawsuit, the insurance company will pay for the business’s legal defense.

Proving the Business Is to Blame

Even if you had a valid reason for visiting the property, you still have to prove the business was to blame for the circumstances that led to your injury. Usually, that means proving the business was negligent.

To meet a legal standard for proving negligence, you must show:

  1. The business owner or manager knew a dangerous condition existed or could exist.
  2. The owner or manager had a reasonable amount of time to repair the danger but failed to do so.
  3. The dangerous condition was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries.
  4. You didn’t know the condition existed or could not avoid it.
  5. Your reckless conduct didn’t contribute to causing your injury.
  6. You didn’t agree to assume the risk of injury.

Evidence Makes a Strong Injury Claim

Building a strong claim starts the moment you are injured. Knowing what to do, and the mistakes to avoid will give you the evidence you need to:

  1. Prove the business was negligent
  2. Prove the severity of your injuries

Immediate Medical Treatment: If you’re injured on business property, call for help. If you’re not sure how badly you’re hurt, call 911. Don’t blame your fall on clumsiness or make light of your symptoms. If you hit your head, you must be checked for a concussion.

If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Refusing medical care at the scene, or delaying treatment will seriously undermine your claim. The insurance company won’t hesitate to say your injuries aren’t that bad or didn’t happen at the business.

Incident Reports: Ask the owner or manager to write an incident report and request a copy. The manager may not have the authority to release the report to you. If necessary, your attorney can subpoena the business to get the report later.

Witness Statements: Look for witnesses to your injury. Ask for their names and contact information. Confirm what they saw, especially if they saw what caused your injury. If they agree to help, ask them to write down what they saw and then sign the written statement.

Photographs: Using your cell phone, take photos or video of the area where you were injured. Focus on what caused your injury. Photos of water on the floor, merchandise that fell on you, or other dangerous conditions contributing to your injury are very important.

Insurance Information: Ask the business owner or manager for the name of their insurance company. Someone from the company may contact you first. That’s fine. Provide your full name and contact information.

Getting Maximum Compensation for Your Injury

You shouldn’t need an attorney for minor soft tissue injuries like cuts, bruises, abrasions, contusions, sprained muscles, minor burns, and other minor injuries. If you’ve fully recovered, you can negotiate your settlement directly with the insurance company.

Your compensation amount is based on the total cost of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, the value of ruined personal items, and lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.

Send your demand letter with copies of all your bills, medical records, receipts, and photographs.

Severe Injury Cases Need an Attorney

If you were severely injured, you’re better off hiring a skilled personal injury attorney to handle your case. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, severe burns, or any other serious injuries with long-term or permanent effects are high-dollar claims.

Insurance companies are notorious for offering lower settlements to claimants without an attorney. The adjuster knows when they make their “final offer,” you won’t have the energy or legal skills to fight for more.

The bigger the business, the more likely you’ll be up against ruthless corporate lawyers. Their only goal is to limit any compensation owed to you.

Depending on your state’s laws, the insurance company will try to use comparative fault rules against you. Comparative fault means you shared some of the blame for what happened, giving the insurance company an excuse to cut or deny your potential compensation.

Businesses, like many casinos, that operate on tribal lands are subject to tribal law. In these situations, you will need to consult with a tribal law attorney to understand your rights.

Always consult a personal injury attorney for:

  • Severe physical or psychological injuries
  • Wrongful death of a family member
  • Injuries involving product liability
  • Concerns about dealing with the insurance company

You don’t have to fight negligent business owners on your own. There’s no obligation and it costs nothing to seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer. Most law firms offer a free consultation on personal injury cases.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>