Slip and fall accidents leave snow plow operators out in the cold
TORONTO -- Contractors in the snow removal business say an increase in “slip and fall” accidents is causing insurance premiums for their business to skyrocket.
Dave Fraser runs DHF Contracting in Oshawa and has 20 employees who clear snow for commercial properties and school boards.
“Insurance companies are canceling us,” Fraser said. “They don't want us anymore and if they are taking us on are rates are going up astronomically. It’s forcing us out of business."
Fraser said that because there is one open slip and fall claim against his company, his insurance premiums went up almost 400 per cent.
“My insurance was $16,000 last year. This year my current quote is $60,000 for the same coverage," said Fraser.
Jeanette Hiddink also has a snow removal business. She says her premiums jumped $10,000 this fall. even without a claim.
“It makes you feel you're not going to be able to run your business and you’re not going to be able to employ your people and all my people have families. They need the money. They need the job,” Hiddink said.
Just a single slip and fall accident can lead to a six-figure payout. Jamie Cardella is the president of HUB Markham, which is the largest provider of snow removal insurance policies in Ontario. He said that even when snow removal operators do a great job removing snow, ice and salting parking lots, it can be difficult to keep up with winter conditions.
“You could clean a lot and the lot could have snow on it again 40 minutes later. Someone could slip on the ice or snow and they're (the snow removal contractor) getting brought into a lawsuit."
While municipalities, towns and cities have a 10-day statute of limitations on slip and fall claims, a person has two years to file a claim against a snow removal contractor. The industry wants that reduced to 10 days as well.
Cardella’s advice to snow removal contractors is to review their contracts and insurance policies carefully.
“They should be looking at their contracts, working with their broker and trying to get the best language they can possible to try and avoid these liabilities," Cardella said.
Fraser said rising insurance premiums means eventually everyone will have to pay more.
“At the end of the day this hurts the consumer because these costs have to be passed down and the consumer is the end user. They are going to have to pay" said Fraser.
Rising rates are also affecting snow plow operators who do residential driveways. There is a concern some may be clearing snow without insurance coverage because they can't afford to pay for the premiums.