New business owners often don't know the ins and outs of local laws. When a business is running well and there are no legal problems, everything seems to be going in the right direction. But a customer fall or injury can quickly put a business in jeopardy.
There are three basic elements of a personal injury that every business owner should know and understand.
The more you know about the law and how it impacts your business, the better.
Duty of Care
As a business owner, you'll likely invite potential customers into your store. These customers will enter the store to buy goods or view your offerings. The patron expects to have a certain level of safety when they enter your property.
And a business owner has a duty of care to customers.
This doesn’t mean that every injury or accident will be the fault of the business. A "reasonable duty of care" allows for some wiggle room so that the owner isn't responsible for every injury that occurs.
Business owners can protect themselves by creating a standard to follow, which may include:
- Procedures to inspect the property for defects that may lead to injury
- Rules to regularly clean the premises to eliminate slips and falls
- Measures, such as carpeting in front of doors, to help stop water from pooling and causing a patron to slip
- Rules on making repairs promptly
- Procedures to ensure proper signage is in place near possible hazards
A business owner can prevent a slip and fall lawsuit by simply putting a "wet floor" sign down. The goal is to alert customers of a potential hazard. If a customer opts to ignore warnings, it will be their negligence that led to the injury.
"'Fault' means that the owners did something wrong or failed to do something they should have done. There can be highly complex factual and legal issues in premises liability cases. On one hand, most would agree that a store is a place that expects to see a lot of foot traffic and needs to be maintained accordingly. On the other hand, some types of hazards cannot be reasonably prevented," states .
Store owners may be liable under a few different scenarios:
- The business created the unsafe condition
- The business knew of the condition and failed to make the appropriate repairs
For example, if a customer enters a supermarket, drops a bottle of olive oil on the floor and falls as a result, the business is likely not liable for the issue. The store wasn’t aware of the spill and didn’t have time to react to the situation.
There is a lot that goes into breach of duty.
For example, a business may be in breach of duty if it fails to maintain its cleaning schedule, which may have prevented a slip and fall.
Business owners have the right to defend themselves, and this means a chance at not paying huge settlements. Compensation is likely for any patron that slips, falls and is injured at a business. These injuries will need to have documentation to be valid.
Lawyers will always try and prove fault, making it the focal point of all settlements.
But there are a lot of examples of injury claims at some of the largest businesses in the world. A few of these examples, include:
- Home Depot. The company was found to delete evidence of a woman slipping and falling on an unknown substance. Video evidence was deleted, but the court found enough evidence to require Home Depot to pay $44,383 to the victim. Another case involved a woman being injured as her cart tipped over, causing a knee injury when she hit a manhole cover that was underwater. The court ordered the company to pay $950,000.
- Walgreens. An example of a business winning a case involves Walgreens. A 2004 case where a man slipped and fell on liquid went in favor of Walgreens. The company suggested that the liquid came from the man's shoes because he was walking in snow. The courts ruled in favor of the defendant.
So, yes you are liable for customer injuries when there is a breach of duty. In the event that the injury wasn't caused by a breach of duty, you can fight the claim.