Accidents that result in premises liabilityclaims can occur on either private or public property, andtypically involve injuries. Slip-and-fall accidents often takeplace in retail establishments, including grocery stores andrestaurants, as well as parking lots, apartment complex grounds,and hotel lobbies and hallways, to name a few. Such accidents oftenoccur as the result of wet or contaminated walking surfaces, whiletrip-and-fall incidents are caused by material, debris or otherobstructions on the walking surface, or uneven surfaces.

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While many of these incidents are truly accidental in nature,there are occasions where slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidentsare staged for the purpose of collecting on an insurance claim. TheNational Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) studied questionableslip-and-fall claims that were referred for review from Jan. 1,2010 through Dec. 31, 2011. During the calendar year 2010, therewere 1,944 claims referred, compared to 2,168 referred claims in2011. That's an increase of 12 percent.

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“Each year slips, trips, and falls are among the leading causesof serious physical injury and fatalities,” says Thomas Parco,R.A., of Rimkus Consulting Group Inc. “It is essential to makecertain you are utilizing qualified experts in analyzing andproviding technical data to support expert opinions when analyzingslip, trip and fallincidents.”      

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Proper investigation of a slip-and-fall or trip-and-fallincident can help differentiate claims for true accidents fromfraudulent claims. Luminometers, or light meters, are used toestablish the facts regarding lighting conditions. Surfaceconditions can be documented, and the surface in question can betested with a tribometer such as an English XL to determine asurface's slip index when it is both wet and dry: The BrungraberMark I tribometer was developed specifically for slip-testing bathand shower surfaces. A thorough investigation willtypically include a review of the applicable building codes todetermine whether the site conditions meet coderequirements. 

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Once site conditions have been examined and analyzed, videoenhancement of security tapes, when available, can assist indetermining exactly how the slip-and-fall or trip-and-falloccurred. Animations of the incident, includingthree-dimensional site mapping, can illustrate the findings of theinvestigation and provide demonstrative evidence should a matter gointo arbitration, mediation or trial.

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In addition to slip-and-fall accidents, premises liabilityclaims can arise from a variety of conditions in a multitude ofsettings. Investigation of these conditions in buildingsmay include balcony and railing failure analysis; escalator andelevator injury analysis; security and lighting failure analysis;swimming pool slip-and-fall analysis; ADA compliance review;electronic door evaluations; stairway compliance and analysis;property design analysis; and code compliance and industrystandards analysis. For incidents occurring outdoors,investigations may also include parking lot incident evaluation;bollard pole and wheel-stop evaluations; parking lot signageevaluation; security and lighting failure analysis; uneven walkwayand sidewalk review; ADA compliance review; and analysis ofindustry standards and code compliance.

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