Premises liability can be costly matters for a business to deal with. They can also be debilitating for those who are injured.
Businesses wishing to avoid dealing with the costs and trouble of slip-and-falls do well to take a proactive approach to preventing accidents. On the other hand, victims do well to be aware of the duties businesses owe to their customers.
Generally speaking, business owners will be liable for accidents occurring on their property if they were negligent in maintaining the property in safe conditions. Three important areas to be aware of are floors, stairs and escalators. Each of these areas can present the possibility of danger to customers and become a source of liability for businesses.
Floors are not always kept dry and clear of obstructions. Business may be negligent if they fail to monitor the cleanliness of floors. And the longer an obstruction remains on the floor, the greater legal presumption there is that the business owner has acted negligently. Failure to put up signs indicating wet floors, failing to close of a slipper area, and utilizing too much wax on floors are all common ways business patrons can be injured.
As far as stairs, businesses may be found liable if stairs become worn or damaged, if there are sharp or rounded edges that cause injury. Businesses should be expected to correct unsafe conditions about which they know or should have known.
Escalators and elevators are another potential area where patrons can be injured. Sometimes articles of clothing or fingers or feet can get stuck in the moving parts of escalators or elevators. Something to keep in mind, too, is that some courts impose higher safety standards on owners and operators of escalators and elevators. Business owners should not expect that every patron will exercise caution around moving machinery on the premises, and should take steps to prevent or warn of potential injury.
Business owners typically carry liability insurance to cover the costs of potential accidents. While business owners do well to insure that their policy is satisfactory to cover potential liabilities, victims do well to realize that if they are injured, they may be up against sophisticated insurance companies who know how to defend their financial interests.
Source: Reuters, “Top 3 Small Business Slip and Fall Accident Tips,” Jason Beahm, 25 Feb 2011.