If you’re a small business owner and work from a building that’s open to the public, then you need to know about premises liability. Premises liability is a legal term used in personal injury cases when something defective or unsafe in a person’s premises causes another person injury or harm.
The person who has been injured can then claim compensation from the building’s owner. A personal injury lawsuit can be very costly, especially if you’re a small business owner that’s just starting out, which is exactly why you need to know how to avoid them.
In this article, you will find out everything you need to know as a small business owner about premises liability.
You Are Responsible!
Legally, you are responsible for every single customer, employee, client, or vendor who steps inside your business. Because of this, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they’re protected and that there’s nothing unsafe lying around.
There are even limited protections available to trespassers and burglars. If a trespasser breaks into your property and is injured because of your negligence, they can actually sue you!
It’s important you know that you are responsible even if you’re just renting. It’s your responsibility, not your landlord’s responsibility. As the custodian of the building, you’re in charge of ensuring maintenance is performed.
With all of that said, just because you’re responsible for every person who steps into your business, that doesn’t mean you’re responsible for every accident that takes place.
According to the legal specialists from Bentonville Personal Injury Lawyers, when the accident was somebody else’s fault, you shouldn’t be held accountable. If a person causes an accident themselves then even if they try to sue you, there’s very little chance that you will end up paying compensation to them.
Lots of business owners wrongly believe that they can only be held accountable if people slip, trip, or fall in their buildings. This is not true. You can be held accountable for any injury that’s caused by your negligence. Essentially, any injury that could have been prevented is included under premises liability.
This could include things like cat scratches [if you let a pet cat roam the business], electric shocks, and leaks. It’s important to meticulously go through your business, eliminating any potential threats. There are people out there who will intentionally exploit flaws in a building in order to claim compensation.
Commercial General Liability Insurance
In addition to having a good lawyer on retainer, you should have commercial general liability insurance. These policies will protect you against personal injury or property damage claims. You can find very reasonably priced policies that cover you for millions of dollars.
Commercial general liability insurance is an investment into the future of your business. While you may think that it’s unnecessary if you find yourself facing a personal injury lawsuit you will have wished that you had it. Make sure to shop around and compare deals when you’re looking for any type of insurance.
The best thing that you can do [as we have already mentioned] is to prevent accidents before they happen. Dealing with accidents after they have taken place can be very costly, even if you end up winning the lawsuit. Preventing accidents is usually free and takes up very little time.
If there is any maintenance that needs to be done, then you can contact your landlord and ask for them to help you. Alternatively, you may qualify for a government bursary or funding. Don’t under any circumstances take shortcuts on maintenance to save time and money.
Here’s how you can go about preventing accidents:
Inspect Your Business
You need to act diligently to ensure that your premises is safe and isn’t hazardous. Take a walk through your business once or twice a week, inspecting for any potential hazards. You should also encourage your staff to come to you if they find anything that’s potentially dangerous.
While walking around your business and inspecting it might seem like a laborious task, it will end up saving you a lot of money if there were something hazardous present. Make sure to do it yourself. If you pay a member of staff to do it, then they might not be as diligent as you would be.
Fix the Problem
Once a problem has been identified, you need to address it immediately. If you don’t correct the issue [but know about it] you can get into a lot of trouble. This is especially true if a member of staff reported it to you and you didn’t act.
If you can’t fix the problem then you should close your business until you have the time [or money] to fix it. If anybody’s injured because of a problem you’re aware of, then you won’t stand a chance in court. If you don’t fix it then opportunistic fraudsters could exploit the problem in order to claim compensation, which we mentioned previously.
If you can’t close your shop – but can’t fix a problem immediately – then at the very least, you need to put up signs warning people. A perfect example of this would be a ‘wet floor’ sign.
A sign can often be enough to avoid a lawsuit. A warning sign will keep staff and customers away from hurting themselves. You need to ensure that the signposts are in obvious places, however. If they’re not then an accident could still occur.
If you don’t take our advice and an injury does occur on your premises, then you can be sued for millions. There’s really no limit to the amount a person can claim for, as long as they have a good enough reason. If you’re a small business owner then the chances are that you don’t have millions lying around to spare.
If you do find yourself facing a personal injury case, you need to find the best lawyer that you can. Even the strongest claim can be overcome with professional legal aid.
It’s crucial that you understand premises liability. If you don’t then you could end up sitting in a courtroom, being sued for everything you own. With this article’s advice, you should be able to successfully avoid any negligence claims.