As an owner of a small business establishment, you probably know that you are likely to face a lawsuit if a person slips and falls inside your business premises. You need to be aware of certain general rules pertaining to the potential liability towards “slip and fall” accidents that could occur at your business place. As an attorney, I come across a lot of slip-and-fall cases and these are certainly the bestinstances of premises liability. As a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your visitors. A good understanding of the premises liability helps improve your business place safety and also avoids getting into trouble of handling lawsuits. Let us have a look at how a personal injury case could arise out of a “slip and fall” accident within your premises.
Slip and Fall Accidents and Premises Liability Claims
“Slip and fall” accidents in which a person trips over something or slips down and gets injured at another person’s property can be treated as a personal injury case. Usually, these types of cases come under a broader category of claims called the “premises liability claims” and the owner of the property could be held legally responsible for the accident. This might mean payment of medical bills, lost income, and legal costs to defend your own business.
There are several conditions in businesspremises which could lead to such untoward incidences happening with your customers or any person who steps in. It may be torn carpets, poor lighting condition, unsafe narrow staircase, and wet floor that could cause anyone to slip and fall. Other outdoor conditions such as broken sidewalks and potholes in the ground that may get hidden due to rain or snow can cause people to trip over and fall. However, one cannot exactly determine when a business owner should be held legally responsible for his/her customer’s slip and fall injury. Every case needs careful investigation as to whether the business owner has acted responsibly so that slipping/tripping events are less likely and whether the customer was negligent in observing and avoiding the condition that caused slip and fall accident. Here are some general rules that govern the determination of fault in slip and fall injury cases.
General Regulations regarding Slip and Fall injuries at Business Places
A person who sustained slip and fall injury at another person’s property has to prove that his/her fall was a result of a “dangerous condition”, which was known to the owner of the property. A dangerous condition refers to a condition that presents an unreasonablerisk to people and is unanticipated during that circumstance. This means that people are required to be aware of avoidable and obvious dangers, but most people do not realize that sometimes injuries are caused by accidents due to their own careless behavior. For instance, if a person had a fall just because he was not alert enough while walking, he cannot recover compensation from the business owner no matter how serious the injury is. If the injured person is partially at fault, he may still be able to recover a reduced amount of compensation.
In order to prove that a business owner was aware of the dangerous condition and be legally held responsible for the customer’s slip and fall injury, the business owner must have:
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- Created the condition- caused the spillage, worn out or torn spot, slippery or any other dangerous itemto be under the foot.
- Noticed the condition that was there for an extended period time and the owner or anyone with the responsibilityof taking care of the property should have taken corrective actions but has negligently failed to do so. For instance, a business owner will be held liable for the injury if a person tends to slip over a spillage of water on the floor, which needs to be noticed and cleaned up in a timely manner.
- Violated the statutes. For example, there are certain building codes that dictate where exactly the handrails and other components should be placed. If at all a customer falls down a staircase that had inappropriate handrails, there will be a validclaim against the building owner in the context of violating the building codes.
Responsible Parties in Slip and Fall Case at a Business Property
In most cases, there are a number of people that are held responsible for slip and fall injury at a commercial property. For example, if you run a small business at a space rented by a property owner, you as well as your property owner will be defendants. You will be called the possessor of the property and will be liable for reasonable care of the property in order to the prevent injury to those visiting the premises. Sometimes, a management company would have been appointed for the maintenance and management of the premises. In such cases, the management company will be calledthe possessor the property and held legally responsible for the untoward incidences.
Regardless of the fact whether you own your business premises or you have taken it for rent, you will be responsible for people who step inside the building-right from your employees, vendors to your customers. Even the trespassers are partially protected under the premises liability law. In conditions where your building owner gets sued for negligence, you as a tenant will always the primary burden as in most cases, the rental agreement includes a clause wherein the tenant assumes the complete responsibility if maintenance of safety of the property. This means that in cases where your landlord gets sued, your business is likely to get caught with additional expenses.
How to Effectively Handle Safety Issues as a Small Business Owner
When it comes to premises liability, it is your responsibility to take steps to prevent injuries and keep everyone safe once you open up a business. Secondly, you should consider a standard commercial general liability insurance policy for as little as $500, which can cover you up to a million dollars. This is helpfulfor a long term as you never know; accidents are inadvertent and could land you up facing a lawsuit. Moreover, if you decide upon fighting a premises liability suit, you may end up affecting your business. Most insurance policies do cover theexpenseof a premises liability lawsuit, but lawyer fee alone could be exorbitant. Remember, there is no insurance that can cover and repair your lost reputation in your business. Here are some best practices that help avoid preventable injuries and expensive claims:
- Regular Inspection: You and your co-workers can make it a point to monitor potentially dangerous conditions in your surroundings.
- Prompt Rectification: If at all you discover or just suspect a dangerous condition, get it corrected right away. For instance, clean up the spillage, flatten out the curled carpet, or shove off the snow from the walkway.
- Appropriate Indications: In the event that the dangerous condition needs some time to get fixed, displaying clear warning signs could avoid untoward accidents.
Keep away potential dangers through regular maintenance of the property, finally, it’s your own business and your own responsibility!
About the Author
Sean M. Cleary is the owner of The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, a personal injury law firm in Miami, Florida. Sean’s law office offers legal assistance in personal injury claims resulting from property owner’s negligence such as slip and fall accidents, pools and drowning accidents, house fires, boat injuries, cruise ship injuries, yachts/jet skis/scuba diving accidents in Miami and across Florida. Sean employs best legal practices to negotiate and help his clients or their family members reduce their financial burden by recovering the maximum eligible amount of compensation from the insurance companies.