No matter what business you are in, small business owners needs to prepare for risks that will affect the bottom line. One concern is the potential threat of premises liability lawsuits.
When an accident occurs business owners need to do all they can to assure that they are not at fault due to their own negligence.
Business owners themselves can start by implementing safety policies and additional procedures pertaining to inspection and maintenance of your property to make it possible to prevent injuries on your premises. However, protecting your bottom line doesn’t end there. You must also take into consideration ways to minimize the financial impact of personal injury lawsuits.
Typically employees will be covered for their injuries by your worker’s compensation policy. However, lawsuits filed by visitors, clients, or vendors that are injured in an accident can be costly not only in compensation but in representation and to your reputation. To protect yourself financially, make sure you set up a meeting with your insurance agent and purchases all types of insurance to protect against the risks that exist on your property.
Business premises liability law overall is designed to protect customers, vendors, and even trespassers to some extent. As a business owner it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of ANY individual who chooses to visit your place of business.
The most common accident business owner’s face is known as a slip and fall.
The attorney in these types of cases will be representing an individual who experienced a slip or trip and fall at your business and they feel that the business owner is liable. Some of the situations where negligence can be identified are in accidents relating from dangerous conditions such as wet floors, inadequate lighting, torn or loose carpeting, cluttered aisles in stores, etc. You could also face a lawsuit for an accident with injuries that had occurred on the outside of your business. This could happen as visitors approach your business and slip/ fall in the parking area due to danger areas created by freezing rain, ice or snow, or other hazards that can include a fall due to cracked walkway or parking lot.
Premises liability lawsuits are not limited to slip and fall accidents. There are other dangerous circumstances and situations that can bring a lawsuit on a business owner:
• Injury from improperly secured merchandise that falling from a shelf;
• Assault by an employee or other while on or in property;
• Building code violations leading to accidents;
• Negligent security provided on premises that is in a known high crime area.
Clearly, business owners who do not take precautions to protect those that visit their establishments will inevitably be faced with personal injury lawsuits. Defending against lawsuits can prove to be very expensive and damaging to a business’s reputation.
The first measure that business owner can take to avoid a premises liability lawsuit is prevention. By setting high standards and implementing safety policies in relation to building and premises inspection, maintenance and business practices you will have taken the first steps to operating a safe business. It is not only the responsibility of the business owner to maintain safety on the premises, but you must train employees as well, to keep an eye out for and on unsafe conditions. It is essential to take immediate action if a hazard (s) is recognized and to remedy the situation promptly. No matter what the hazard, be it spilled liquid or solid items, the accumulation of ice or snow on a walkway or in entrance way, loose or torn carpet, or any other potentially dangerous condition. As business owners you need to take it upon yourself to see to it that you train the employees to know how to handle an accident occurring at your business, who to contact and how to properly report it. You have to have a policy of regular inspections for any hazards on your property, especially ones that are latent or non-obvious to the eye of one walking on your property for the first time. The greater the risk of a defect developing created by weather, customer conduct, or in high traffic areas on your premises, the higher amount of care you must provide to ensure the area is inspected and maintained more regularly. Failure to do that will result in your company being found negligent causing another to be injured.
By not having adequate liability coverage, a business can face a dire financial situation in the case of a large judgment. Businesses that engage the public on their premises should obtain general liability insurance for their own protection and in the case of a serious accident, for the individual that has suffered the injury. Make sure you have high limits of coverage and purchase an umbrella policy above and beyond the liability policy. If a personal injury lawsuit is brought against your business and you are found at fault, a judgment will enter by the court to compensate the injured party for lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, the injuries themselves, and other damages. A general liability insurance policy and umbrella policy, in addition to providing coverage for these damages, can also cover the cost of defending these negligence claims by paying for an attorney to defend these claims.
At the end of the day it is a business owner’s duty to keep their premises as safe as possible and to protect the viability of their business. Even while taking all the measures of safety they can, each and every business owner needs to be prepared to face a lawsuit by securing a good general liability policy, an umbrella policy and other relevant coverage, such as dram shop insurance coverage if you are serving alcohol. Please see your insurance agent to make sure you have all the proper types of coverage and adequate amounts of coverage.