Don't Get Sued: Examining Premises Liability Law

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When it comes to the financial stability of a business, nothing’s worse than getting sued. A single lawsuit could cause serious setbacks and even result in a business closing its doors. 

One of the most common types of claims made against a business is premises liability. These result when a person gets injured while on business property. Many times these accidents occur in retail settings. 

If you own a business, you owe it to yourself to learn everything about premises liability law. Doing so will help you avoid an accident and prepare you if one happens. To help you out, we’ve created this comprehensive guide. 

Understanding Premise Liability Cases 

The basis of all premises liability claims made against a business is negligence. The injured party must show that the property owner failed to provide a safe environment for visitors.

Negligence in these cases can take many forms. A business owner may fail to make repairs to things like handrails, steps, or walkways on their property.

Another common form of negligence involves failing to provide adequate warning signs or safety measures. For example, a business may neglect to put signs around slippery areas or rope off sections of the building that are off-limits.

Some property liability cases arise from injuries sustained in business parking lots. A person may fall due to holes in the pavement. Claims can even arise if a business fails to provide adequate security in parking lots.

In most cases, the business owner never intended for the injury to happen. However, if the victim proves that negligence led to their injuries, the business may have to pay for damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Common Accidents That Lead to Claims

We discussed a few examples of how a premises liability case could arise. However, as a business owner, you should know some of the most common accidents and injuries that result in claims.

Slip and fall injuries are the most common form of accident that takes place on business properties. These can result from slippery surfaces, damaged flooring, and uneven steps.

These may sound harmless, but victims often sustain head trauma or broken bones. When this happens, victims can retain a slip and fall lawyer to seek compensation for damages.

Accidents also commonly occur on escalators and elevators. These can result in lacerations or even loss of limbs.  

Falling objects often result in severe injuries. These are more common in large industrial environments that contain products stored on tall shelves.

Understanding Duty of Care

Each state has its own premises liability laws. Some states require property owners to provide a reasonable duty of care to every person who sets foot on their property. Other states define three types of visitors the property owner must extend the duty of care to.

The first group is the invitees. These are people who have the owner’s permission to come onto the property. Invitees are typically friends, family, or neighbors.

The second group is the licensees. These are people who have the owner’s permission to visit the property but are there to conduct their own business. Salesmen or contractors are good examples of licensees.

The last group is the trespassers. These are people who don’t have permission to be on the property. Even in these cases, the property owner may have to provide reasonable care so that foreseeable risks are avoided.

It’s important you understand your state’s laws surrounding premises liability. They will dictate who you must provide a reasonable duty of care to.

Defenses Against a Claim

If someone files a premises liability claim against your business, you need to hire an experienced attorney to defend you. Your goal is to prove that negligence wasn’t the sole cause of the accident.

Attorneys typically use several defenses to prove this. Which one they use depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident.

One defense is that of contributory negligence. This means the victim’s actions contributed to the accident and their subsequent injuries.

Another is the assumption of risk. This defense asserts the victim knew there was a risk of injury and disregarded it. In doing so, they assumed the risk of injury.

The last defense is comparative negligence. This means both the victim and the business were both negligent. In these cases, the judge often reduces the damages owed to the victim.

Premises Liability Insurance 

Business owners can protect themselves from claims by getting premises liability insurance. This type of coverage pays for claims bought against the business after an injury.

It’s important to keep in mind that premises liability insurance is similar to other forms of coverage. Depending on the policy, there are usually limitations.

For example, a policy may only pay up to a certain amount for damages. Or, it may pay for all damages the victim sustains but not all the business’s subsequent expenses.

Premises liability insurance won’t cover the cost of repairs the business needs to make to ensure a reasonable duty of care. This is the business owner’s responsibility.

How to Reduce the Risk of an Accident

The best way to avoid having a claim brought against your business is to take measures to maintain a safe environment.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your property clean at all times. Address any spills or leaks right away and be sure to put out warning signs if floors are slippery.

Fix damage to handrails, handicap ramps, and stairwells immediately. You should also have potholes filled in your parking lot right away.

If you store heavy items on shelves, make sure they’re secure at all times. Perform regular safety checks to reduce the chance of falling objects.  

Finally, takes measures to provide adequate security in and around your business. Install surveillance cameras, floodlights, and security gates if necessary.

Stay Informed About Premises Liability Law

An injury claim can wreak havoc on your finances and business reputation. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of premises liability law in your state so you can protect yourself.

Keep the points discussed above in mind and take measures to secure your business legally and financially.

We hope you found this article helpful. Feel free to browse our site for more legal and insurance content. Visit the Law section of our blog right now!

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