CARSON CITY – According to the latest report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), Las Vegas ranks fifth in the nation for questionable slip-and-fall claims despite being only the 30th largest city in the United States.
Most businesses carry insurance to financially protect them should someone become injured as a result of a legitimate accident. However, criminals fake slip-and-fall injuries in order to submit fraudulent claims against the business or the business’s insurer.
“The cost of these claims goes into the cost we all pay for retail goods,” said Bryan Wachter, director of Government Affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada.
There are additional costs when courts are tied up with fraudulent or frivolous claims, and when business owners have to take time out to defend against them, he said.
According to Michael Geeser, president of the Nevada Insurance Council, fraudulent slip-and-fall claims raise the cost of insurance for everyone.
“We all pay the price when scammers strike,” he said. “Las Vegas being in the fifth spot given the size of the city certainly raises a red flag.”
The NICB noted that large retailers are not the only ones being hit with slip-and-fall scams. Small retailers have become a target of criminals who use a threat of litigation in order to get the small business to pay a cash amount to avoid being sued. In these cases, a person fakes an injury and then pretends to have paid for medical treatment. The store owner is given the choice of paying the “reimbursement” amount in cash or being sued.
Both Wachter and Geeser agree that such pay-outs only encourage more fraud.
“Small retailers need to be on the alert for these scams and promptly alert law enforcement to these kinds of extortion,” Wachter said.
“Of course, the consumer is the one who ultimately pays since retailers need to incorporate the cost of the insurance into the prices they charge for the products,” Geeser said. “Stopping such fraud is important to keeping a lid on costs.”
To compile this report, the NICB reviewed slip-and-fall questionable claims referred during the period of Jan. 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2011. In 2010, there were 1,944 referrals; in 2011, there were 2,168 – an increase of 12 percent.
The five states generating the most slip-and-fall questionable claims from 2010-2011 were: California (667); New York (280); Texas (245); Illinois (230) and Florida (286). The top five cities were: New York (134); Los Angeles (127); Philadelphia (99); Chicago (63) and Las Vegas (62).
Bryan Wachter of the Retail Association of Nevada says it is unfortunate the problem is on the rise in Las Vegas:
Wachter says it also takes court resources and time from business people who have to fight fraudulent claims:
Wachter says it is important to highlight these issues for small business owners because of the costs involved: