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Safety Is Your Business, Too

Business owners have a legal responsibility to make sure their premises are reasonably safe, and failure to do so can land a company in court.

Whether you own a store, an office building or another business that is open to the public, you must take the following steps:

Regularly inspect your premises to ensure there are no safety hazards. This is especially important if customers are coming in from the rain or snow and create slippery conditions or your floors

It’s in the Timing

A woman shopping in a New Jersey produce market slipped and fell on a vegetable leaf. The court determined that the leaf was a hazard and caused the fall.

However, the court ruled that the market wasn’t liable because there was no proof that the leaf was there long enough for management to discover it.

In contrast, a Pennsylvania storekeeper was found liable when a customer slipped on an oily substance on a staircase. The court found that the substance had been there for two hours before the accident.

have been washed or waxed recently. Encourage employees to report hazardous situations.

Post warnings if any unusual conditions exist.

Regularly maintain doors, floors, aisles, steps, lighting and merchandise displays.

Properly light entrances and exits.

If you don’t meet these requirements, an injured customer or client might be able to successfully sue your business. “Premises liability” lawsuits can result in damages awards if it can be proved that:

  • An unsafe condition existed,
  • The injury was caused by the unsafe condition, and
  • You knew of the unsafe condition or the situation existed for a long enough period of time that you should have discovered it during regular inspections.

The most common lawsuits involve “slip and fall” accidents, often caused by liquid or a foreign substance on the floor. Other claims are filed as a result of unmarked stepdowns, defects in the floor, poor lighting, and sharp items that cause injuries. Premises liability litigation can also arise after a criminal attack, with the victim attempting to prove the owner failed to provide adequate security.

The damages that injured parties may be able to obtain include medical care and hospitalization costs, loss of income, and expenses incurred to hire others to perform household duties, as well as damages due to pain and suffering.

The laws vary depending on your state and the facts of the incident. Consult with your attorney if you have any questions.