Increase Parking Lot Safety to Reduce Workers' Comp Claim Risks


Parking lots are the third most common place where crimes occur in the U.S., with nearly 1,400 violent crimes committed each day. Parking lot safety is imperative for healthcare facilities and physician clinics — where one incident could turn into a costly claim for your organization.

This claims study involves an employee who claimed she was assaulted after leaving an administrative meeting at the healthcare facility where she was employed.

Explore how La.R.S. 1208 played a role in deciding this case and how to make parking lots safer for your healthcare organization.


Parking Lot

The Claim

The employee worked as a certified nurse assistant and receptionist for a physician’s office where previous discord between the employee and physician had been reported. The employee alleged that she was left alone outside of the building when an unknown assailant forced her around the building to an isolated area and struck her in the head with a weapon, causing injury.

After calling for help from her cell phone, she was taken to the Emergency Department for treatment. ED records show no sign of trauma or injury to the employee, although it was reported the attacker struck her so hard that she lost consciousness for some time. None of her personal belongings — including her cell phone or purse — were taken during the incident. The claimant was also never able to provide any identifying information about her attacker, stating only that he was wearing all black and carrying a gun.

Following the ED visit, the claimant continued seeking medical care for post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, and right shoulder pain along with neck and mid-back pain.


The Conflict

The claim was initially accepted by the workers’ compensation coverage as compensable. But during the investigation process, the claimant was sent for a second medical opinion where her alleged complaints were evaluated more closely. After further evaluation, benefits were suspended for violating La.R.S. 1208 — commonly called the fraud defense.

After the 1208 was filed, the claimant retained counsel and filed a 1008 dispute. During the discovery phase of the litigation, a witness was discovered who was in the parking lot in his vehicle at the time of the incident. The witness saw the claimant walking behind the building but testified that she was always alone.

Once this information was produced to the claimant’s attorney, the case was settled for a nuisance amount that included resignation from employment at the facility.


Respond Effectively at the Beginning of Claim Investigations

While this claim was satisfactorily resolved on behalf of the employer, some steps could have been taken to dispute the allegations made at the onset of the claim without the need for sometimes costly litigation.

Here are four ways to strengthen your fraud defense:

  1. Conduct an initial investigation immediately upon report of the event.
    This step allows you to identify potential witnesses in the area who may have details pertinent to the reported facts of the claim.
  2. Preserve any potential video evidence.
    Videos from the area of the event and videos of the surrounding areas can be pertinent to the investigation.
  3. Promptly notify your coverage provider of the loss.
    Our Claims Consultants can assist with the initial investigation and help determine if there could be evidence to preserve.
  4. Practice early incident reporting.
    Communicate early and often with your claim consultant about contact with the injured worker.

Secure Your Organization’s Parking Lots & Garages

Parking lots pose many threats, from auto crashes to encounters with others that have nefarious intent. Employers can take several steps enhance parking lot safety for their staff and others.

Here are four parking lot safety tips to implement:

  1. Install video cameras.
    Installing video cameras to capture footage of what is happening in the parking lot can be vital in an investigation. Preservation of any relevant evidence of an incident before it is recycled is an important step for your internal staff to take.
  2. Ensure adequate lighting.
    Adequate lighting for improved visibility goes a long way toward improving parking lot safety. Lighting can help deter crime since criminals prefer darkness to reduce the risk of getting caught. Special attention should be made to ensure lighting is appropriate in high-risk areas and blind spots such as behind the building, near entrances, and around the dumpster area.

    Take care to ensure the lighting is effective in brightness and illuminates the parking lot uniformly. Periodic inspections of the parking lot after dark are recommended to identify any potential hazards or bulbs that may need replacing. Encourage employees to use parking spaces in well-lit, highly visible areas of the parking lot.
  3. Train staff in the identification and de-escalation of violence.
    Programs, such as Management of Aggressive Behaviors (MOAB), teach staff critical techniques to address violence that can be used during and outside of work. These techniques involve identifying escalating aggression in others and techniques to use in the event of an attack that may occur in parking lots.

    Employees will benefit from training in how to release physical holds and escape an attack when a weapon is used. Although these techniques may rarely be used, the knowledge may help save a life.
  4. Train staff in situational awareness.
    Being aware of your surroundings is often the most important factor in staying safe. So many people are distracted when traversing parking lots, becoming easy targets of violence. Teach staff to:
    1. Stay alert rather than walking distractedly into the parking lot by, for example, looking at their cell phone, wearing headphones, or rummaging through a purse or bag.
    2. Not linger in the parking lot. Employees should have their keys ready, get immediately into their vehicle, and lock the door.
    3. Use the main walkways in lit areas rather than weaving in and out of other parked vehicles or walking on the grass through trees.
    4. Go back into the building and contact the police if they notice someone loitering in the parking lot or around their vehicle. They should never approach such individuals.
    5. Leave in pairs, especially if leaving after dark, so that no one is walking alone.

Prioritize Parking Lot Safety

While the alleged attacker in the claim study above turned out to be fabricated, the claimant’s story could have been all too real. Parking lots and garages can be hotspots for crime and present true safety risks to your employees. Make parking lot safety a priority for your healthcare organization to lower the potential risk of a violent crime taking place in those areas and keep your employees safe.

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Want more workers’ compensation guidance? Join us for our annual Workers’ Compensation Symposium on August 13, 2024 at 8:00 am. LHA Trust Funds claims experts and national industry leaders will discuss current industry risks and how to handle them.

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