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What Business Owners Should Know About Premises Liability

business owners premises liabilityRunning a successful business is hard. The statistics about the survival rate of new businesses show that 50% of new businesses will fail within the first 5 years. There are many reasons for a business to fail. Unfortunately, the blame often falls on the person that starts the business. They may not fully understand the business they got into or they may underestimate the competition. Even when a business owner does everything right, the business can still fail.

While many business failures are the result of poor management choices, there is also a long list of business failures that result from something different. Many business owners underestimate the need to learn about premises liability and what that means for running a business. They may try to ignore the need to learn about this area of running a business only to find that it is the reason their business ends up closing the doors.

What is Premises Liability?

Part of the basis of premises liability is that every person that steps foot into a business is at risk for injury. If the injury resulted from negligence on the part of the owner when taking care of their premises, they are liable for any damages or injuries that occur.

Injuries can come in many forms. They can result from slip and fall accidents, falling or unsecured objects, or dangerous obstacles that are not properly stored. The operation of machinery and maintenance issues can lead to injuries the business is responsible for. For businesses that maintain customers’ information, the loss of that information can cause problems for the business. In all of these examples, the business could end up having to pay damages that they cannot afford.

Slip and Fall Accidents

The most common type of injury that happens on the premises of a business are slips and falls. In some cases, people fall through no fault of the business, but it happens on the business’s property which could mean they are liable for any injuries that occur.

There are also cases where people stage slips and falls. They claim that they suffer injuries as a result of the fall, and they try to hold the business responsible for the damages. They hope that a business does not try to fight their claim and offers to settle with the business. If this happens often enough, a business will struggle to survive. Some of these people will have a slip and fall attorney to help them in their case. A business owner can find the same type of attorney to help defend their business from false claims.

Other Types of Claims

A business is responsible for all of the customers that enter their premises along with any employees of the business. There are plenty of other types of injuries that can occur with this wide group of people. If an employee or visitor to the business assaults someone, the business could be at risk. If the landlord of the business premises is sued for negligence, the business is again at risk. Hazardous material on the property could lead to contaminating other areas, causing sickness or illness to the occupants.

Premises Liability Insurance

For many businesses, the first line of defense against these types of claims is insurance. Just like homeowner’s insurance, premises liability insurance can help a business pay for any claims against them in the event of an accident or something else. But like any insurance policy, there are always limitations to what these policies can offer. The insurance policy may pay for a claim, or they may or may not pay for all the expenses that the business incurs in the event of a specific type of claim.

The cost to fix any defects or problems with the premises is not likely covered by insurance either. A business needs to have their plan in place to make sure the costs that are not covered by the insurance are not going to put the business into the red.

Learn the Laws

One of the problems that businesses have is they do not always know the laws that apply to them. The laws vary from state to state. Some offer more protection for the business than others do. Many of the decisions in premises liability cases rely on the case history of the state that the claim is made. For businesses, understanding what the rules are for premises liability will play a role in how they plan to protect the business if they operate in Florida. There are also businesses that operate in more than one state. They need to make sure that they have an understanding of the different laws and how they are applied in each of the states they operate in.

Another new aspect of premises liability is forming for businesses that operate online. If they provide a service in a state and their service causes some type of harm to a customer, employee or someone else, they may run into trouble in a state they did not think about.

The Unseen Damage of Premises Liability

Another aspect to consider is that a business may not plan for is the way that an accident or claim against them can affect their reputation. The harm to a reputation may not cost them money at the time of the accident, but the damage to it could end up more costly than paying for a claim from the injury.

Successful businesses have a plan that encompasses all the things they need to flourish. It is important that they do not ignore the finer details that could cause them to fail in a hurry. A slip and fall claim against a new or small business could quickly drain all the money out of the business if they do not prepare for it. That means making sure that steps are taken to prevent accidents in the workplace and a plan for dealing with accidents when they do occur.

Steps to Take to Avoid Premises Liability Claims

There are some best practices that business owners and employees can follow to ensure due diligence is done to make sure visitors are safe as possible from harm and the business is protected as much as possible from legal action.

  1. Inspect the property: Regularly review and monitor the property for any unsafe conditions. This includes anything from something as minor as a wet floor from mopping or a rolled up rug on the floor to a missing or broken step on a staircase.
  2. Correct the issue: Be sure that any unsafe conditions that are discovered, or even suspected, are corrected immediately. This means that your employees should have clear policies and procedures to follow when it comes to dangerous conditions. Make sure a “wet floor” sign is visible or spend 15 seconds to flatten out a rug.
  3. Warn guests: If there is a situation where an unsafe condition can not be corrected immediately, be sure that signs are visible until the hazard can be fixed. This means blocking off the broken staircase until repairs can be made.

In the end, business owners are responsible for every customer and employee that walk into their business. Even if they are renting or leasing the building, the burden falls on them to provide a safe environment.