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All Articles Liability Risk Management Property Specialty Coverages Group Benefits Community

In an era where distracted walkers are increasingly common, businesses must ponder the impact on their liability insurance. The question arises: who is responsible if a person, engrossed in their phone, suffers an injury? Distraction elevates the risk of pedestrian accidents significantly. A person has a higher risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident when distracted.

How distracted pedestrian affect businesses in Canada

Such incidents usually involve a pedestrian preoccupied with a digital device — texting, browsing the web, engaging on social media, gaming, listening to music, or taking photos. Being in a distracted state while on the move can increase a person’s risk of tripping, falling, running into another pedestrian, or walking into traffic. Termed as “smartphone zombies,” these individuals pose risks to businesses. Legal and insurance frameworks often place unexpected liability on businesses to safeguard their premises.

Pedestrian distraction reflects a broader cultural shift towards constant multitasking, heightening accident risks.

Too many pedestrian accidents happen that cause serious and even fatal injuries and distracted walkers should bear responsibility for their and others safety, but in the legal and insurance worlds, liability is not as it seems. According to Lisa O’Brien, vice president, regional liability manager for Zurich Canada, “By failing to take reasonable measures to prevent their own injury, there’s increased pressure on businesses to contain and to create safe environments for anything that’s open to the public.”

Surviving the undead pedestrian: Corporate responsibility amid distractions

In the age of increasingly distracted pedestrians, the issue of liability for businesses for creating safe environments for the public becomes more complex and critical. Speakers at the RIMS Canada Conference in Ottawa highlighted that retail, public sector, and commercial fleet companies could be left vulnerable to the magnitude of this risk if they are found liable. Here are some key points to consider regarding liability and responsibility:

  1. Duty of Care: Businesses must ensure their premises are safe, addressing potential hazards for the distracted.
    Safety Measures: Reasonable efforts, like signage and maintenance, are expected to mitigate risks, especially in high-traffic areas.
  2. Contributory Negligence: Liability may be shared if a distracted pedestrian’s actions contribute to their injury, though businesses must still manage evident risks.
  3. Varied Laws: Liability laws differ by location, affecting the balance of responsibility.
  4. Insurance and Defense: Liability insurance is crucial for businesses, influencing settlements and liability assessments.
  5. Public vs. Private Spaces: Liability distinctions exist between incidents on public properties versus private businesses
  6. Evidence: Documentation, like surveillance, is key in determining liability, showcasing efforts to prevent accidents.
  7. Legal Precedents: Past court decisions and evolving legal standards shape liability judgments.

Pedestrian distraction reflects a broader cultural shift towards constant multitasking, heightening accident risks. This reality underscores the importance of proactive measures to enhance pedestrian safety.

distracted pedestrian

Not only is distracting driving an issue, distracted pedestrians affect businesses in Canada in ways we did not anticipate. Businesses face the challenge of ensuring safety in a world where distractions abound, affecting liability in complex ways. Factors such as the nature of the distraction, preventative actions by the business, and legal contexts play critical roles. Consulting legal and insurance experts is advisable for businesses to navigate their responsibilities effectively, emphasizing the shared duty of individuals to maintain their safety.

Resources: How distracted pedestrian affect businesses in Canada

Canadian Underwriters: Zombie apocalypse: why businesses face liability from distracted walkers
Badre Law: Distracted Walking: A Hidden Cause of Rising Pedestrian Accident
Statistics Canada: Circumstances surrounding pedestrian fatalities, 2018 to 2020



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