The MIABC is committed to helping members reduce their claims and maximize opportunities for the provision of local government services. In reviewing the claims history of our members, we have found that the most frequent claims relate to loss of balance, most often involving a trip or slip and fall on our members’ sidewalks. In an effort to assist our members to identify and minimize this risk, we embarked on the MIABC Sidewalk Project.
The goal of this project is to take a closer look at our members' specific policies and procedures and compare them with an analysis of their sidewalk claims history. With the help of our Data Analyst, we have been able to analyze claims data relating to some of our members. This information has helped us generate some useful strategies that may reduce the number of loss of balance claims our members have in the future, increase their ability to provide services to their communities, and best of all, save our members money.
Our findings from the Sidewalk Project reinforced that in order to reduce liability exposure for sidewalk loss of balance claims, it is important to have a policy in place with respect to sidewalk inspection and maintenance; one that is designed in accordance with the resources available, is easily executed by staff and which is documented.
Draft a Clear Policy
A policy is a local government’s best defence to any claim. The courts will not find a local government liable for damage resulting from a trip and fall if the local government can demonstrate that it had a policy in place that was being followed at the time of the accident. A policy can be one in which the local government conducts periodic inspections to identify sidewalks requiring maintenance or it can be a complaints based policy where the inspection is triggered by a complaint from municipal staff or a member of the public. Both policies can be equally effective if they are clear and include precise, specific direction to staff to ensure the policy is implemented consistently. Whether you chose a periodic inspection or a complaints based policy and the frequency of inspections should be determined based on your available budgetary and personnel resources.
Set Specific Repair Criteria
How serious does a deficiency have to be in order to warrant repair? A well drafted policy will stipulate repair criteria for staff to apply in the field. We recommend that repair criteria be clear, easy to apply and leave little room for personal judgment. Further, only one set of criteria should be included in a policy. By stipulating different criteria for different hazards, executing the policy becomes complicated, the criteria are often applied inconsistently and there is more room for error.
Document, Document, Document
No matter what policy our members adopt, it is extremely important that complaints, inspections and repairs are well documented, flagged for follow up, if required, and retained so that they can be easily retrieved if a claim arises.
Through the course of the Sidewalk Project, we have developed a best practices library that includes draft templates of each type of policy as well as the corresponding inspection and reporting forms required to implement the policy which can all be viewed by clicking here. We have also developed a useful tool for easily measuring and classifying sidewalk differentials which you can order FREE OF CHARGE from the MIABC by contacting our Director of Member Services.
We love visiting our members and conducting regional seminars to bring our members together. If you would like the MIABC's Department of Member Services to conduct a regional seminar in your area on developing effective sidewalk inspection and maintenance policies, or on another liability or coverage related topic, please contact our Director of Member Services.