For the second time in just over a decade, residential and commercial real estate development is dominating the Miami business landscape and city skyline. On the residential front, the first quarter of 2013 saw 6,416 unit sales, a 15.4% quarter-over-quarter (QOQ) increase (i). Despite exceptional growth, a hidden danger lurks in the Miami property management industry: Liability for slips, trips, and falls.
There are two prevailing trends that make Miami a ripe environment for slip and fall accidents, as well as consequential litigation and financial loss. First, explosive market growth has led to a rapid increase of residential buildings and corresponding increase in public and communal areas. Marble lobbies, smooth corridors, and slick pool decks are just a few examples of common areas that are inherently dangerous for residents and guests alike. Second, and perhaps more influential, is the degree to which Miami’s naturally tropical environment has the potential to make even the most well groomed areas damp, wet, and dangerous at the flip of the proverbial switch. Heavy rain and winds can occur without notice; failure to prepare can mean serious injury for unsuspecting residents and guests.
Given the expansion of the marketplace and the inherent dangers of such a tropical environment, property owners are wise to prepare for slip and fall accidents. According to CNA Insurance, slip and fall accidents account for up to 30% of the injuries to the general public and may cost up to $12,000 per case (ii). In another report, the International Sanitary Supply Association discloses that the most likely variable to contribute to slip and fall accidents are poorly maintained floor surfaces (iii). Together, these two statistics illustrate the vital importance of proactive and ongoing floor maintenance.
With these statistics in mind, it’s easy to see why slip and fall prevention experts recommend that property management companies and unit owners take a proactive approach to accident prevention following the completion, sale, and/or rental of a new building. At this stage in the project life cycle, the property is frequented primarily by residents and guests. Property owners owe a certain level of care to these individuals, most important of which is the duty to keep the premises in reasonably safe condition.
With CNA and ISSA calling attention to the major role floor surfaces play in slip and fall accidents, it’s not surprising that the most important thing management companies and property owners can do is proactively care for the building’s floor surfaces. First and foremost, entrance mats and runners are to be used to cover tile, hardwood, and other surfaces that are known to become slippery when wet. There are more than 51 different types of commercial floor mats to choose from, according to a representative at Eagle Mat and Floor Products, a leading online retailer of commercial floor mats and facility safety equipment. With such an array of floor mats available, management companies and property owners need not choose between interior aesthetics and safety. Rather, both can be upheld with the right selection of mats, runners, and other safety fixtures.
Of course, floor mats only do so much. Great responsibility is placed on the shoulders of building staff and maintenance personnel, as these individuals are often the first to become aware of dangerous conditions. All personnel should know which areas of the building are the most heavily trafficked, and they should understand unique safety concerns for each. Moreover, an established protocol must exist for identifying and cleaning spills and other dangerous debris accumulation that might otherwise lead to accidents. Most importantly, all staff should receive daily weather reports to ensure everyone remains alerted to dangerous rainstorms, particularly between the months of March and November.
(i) Miami Real Estate Market Analysis Report — Miami Real Estate Invest LLC.
(ii) Slip, Trip, and Fall Accident Control [PDF] — CNA Insurance.
(iii) Slips and Falls: An Evaluation of Causes and Prevention [PDF] — CNA Insurance.