What Are Your Liabilities as a Business Owner If One of Your Customers Suffered a Slip and Fall Injury?
When you hear that a customer of your business has suffered from a slip and fall injury, your first thought may be a concern of lawsuits. This is a very understandable worry since there are countless examples of companies having to provide big payments to people who slipped. Knowing how business liability works can help to ease your concerns and help you prepare for any potential issues. This area of law might seem complex, but it is actually quite simple once you understand the basic laws surrounding business liability.
Are You Legally Responsible for Your Customer’s Safety?
Essentially, the law states that a person who opens their property to the public has a responsibility to ensure the premises are safe for the public. This means that a business owner is supposed to fix any dangerous problems on the premises and appropriately warn customers of the risk while they are taking steps to address the situation. If a business owner is somehow negligent in providing a safe environment and a customer slips, trips, or falls, then the business might end up having to pay a lot of money.
Keep in mind that liability does not just refer to dangerous situations the business owner is aware of. A business can also be liable when a customer is injured by dangerous situations the business should have reasonably known about. They can also be liable for dangerous situations that someone else created, if a reasonable company would be aware that it is likely for someone else to cause that sort of situation. Generally, when deciding who is liable in these types of accidents, courts use the idea of basic common sense to determine whether a business owner should have been aware of the situation and should have taken steps to fix it.
Common Types of Slip and Fall Accidents That Result in Lawsuits
As you can see, the definition of what counts as being liable for a slipping accident is fairly broad. Whether or not a business owner should pay damages for a customer’s injury are typically decided on a case by case basis. Therefore, it can be helpful to take a look at a few common examples of lawsuits that have resulted in the court deciding in favor of the victim:
- Soap is spilled on a store aisle by a customer and sits there for several hours without warning signs. Eventually, a person slips and breaks their leg.
- A business has a rug on a slippery floor without a proper anti-slip background. A customer steps on the rug, has it slide out from under them, and injures their back.
- After employees mop a floor, they do not place warning signs on the aisle, so a person slips on the wet surface.
- During wet weather, a problem in the roof drainage causes puddles to form outside the door. Though they know about this problem, the business does not fix the roof. Eventually, a customer slips in the puddle.
- A company handing out free food samples do not provide a trash can for wrappers or inspect the ground regularly for wrappers. A customer ends up slipping on a wrapper that someone threw on the ground after taking a sample.
Reasons You Might Avoid Being Liable in a Customer Injury
With all these examples of ways businesses have been liable for customer’s injuries, it can feel like you are bound to get a lawsuit anytime anyone in the store slips. However, the reality is that there are thousands of slip and fall injuries every day where the business owner is not liable.
First of all, a business might not be liable if they were not aware of the danger and no reasonable person would be aware of this danger. For example, if a faulty bulb blew far too soon, resulting in a dark area, and someone slipped in the dim area, the business might not be held responsible.
Another reason that a company might not be liable is if the part of the business where the injury occurred was not open to customers. In cases where the business is clearly labeled as being off-limits for customers, then the customer is essentially trespassing and cannot hold the business liable.
Businesses typically are not liable when the customer created the danger through their own behavior in a way that the business could not reasonably predict and address. There have been cases where courts ruled in favor of the business when a customer slipped inside due to a wet area that occurred when the customer brought in snow from outside.
What Are the Consequences of Being Liable for an Accident?
Generally, if your business is sued by an injured customer and the court rules in the customer’s favor, you may face monetary consequences. These payments can include punitive fines if your business did something unethical, or they may just be compensatory fines that pay for the damages the customer incurred. Damages you may owe an injured customer include the costs of medical bills, lost earning potential, and pain and suffering.
Other consequences are typically requirements that the business address the problem if it wants to stay open. In some cases, where a business ignored industry standards or broke the law in an attempt to cover up negligence, they may also face criminal proceedings or censures from their industry.
How to Handle a Slip and Fall Incident
As soon as a customer has a fall in your store, it is important to follow company procedures and help the person get any medical care they need. If a slip and fall injury lawsuit does occur afterwards, the customer will try to prove that your business failed in their responsibility to provide a safe environment. This means that they have to show:
- The business was responsible for a danger or made customers act in a way that caused the danger.
- The business knew or should have known about the danger.
- The business did not take appropriate steps to address the danger.
You can defend yourself against the lawsuit by providing proof that negates the plaintiff’s claims. Since these sorts of cases rely almost entirely on the discretion of the court, it is important to have a talented attorney on your side. Getting the right legal representation will ensure that your side of the incident is fairly presented, so a good lawyer helps you get the best possible outcome in your case.