Slip and fall injuries are part of a premises liability claim, and they occur when a customer slips and falls in your place of business. A fall can happen when a person trips over an object, slips on a wet floor, ice covers a sidewalk or even if a handrail is loose and a person falls down the stairs.
Small business owners can be held responsible for these falls, leading to the business incurring:
- Legal costs
- Lost wage costs
- Medical expenses
Businesses will need to pay to defend themselves and their brand, too.
Duty of Care to Patrons
Small businesses have a “duty of care” to their customers. What this means is that businesses must provide a safe environment for patrons and employees. Maintenance, and all of the costs associated with it, is the duty of the business owner.
Cracks in the sidewalk, loose handrails and carpeting issues that go overlooked and result in a slip and fall mean that the owner failed to meet their duty of care.
Duty of care refers to a certain level of caution that the business must maintain. Business owners in the majority of states must:
- Inspect the premises
- Warn of potential hazards if repairs are not possible
- Make repairs as necessary
All property owners must abide by legal duty of care. The idea is simple: small business owners invite others on to their property, and this means that the owner owes the customer the right to enter and move about the premises safely.
But if a handrail just became loose and the owner didn’t know about it, they may not be held liable for the slip and fall that occurs.
If the handrail had been loose for a while, the owner should or should have known about the potential hazard.
Costs Associated with a Safe Premises
Small business owners have a lot of costs to be concerned with, and premises liability is just one of them. Costs vary greatly by business type and size, but even a one-person business will have to pay $500 or more on just premises liability insurance.
But the costs don’t end there.
Small business owners will also need to spend money on:
- Maintenance and repairs
- Signage for wet floors or hazards
- Training employees to notice and make repairs
It’s up to the business owner to ensure that the premise is safe for everyone. If a manager should have noticed a loose rug but failed to do so, the owner may still be considered negligent in the event that a slip and fall occurs.
Business owners should also have the documentation to back up all of the maintenance and preventative measures taken. Inspections should be performed routinely to ensure that the area is safe and properly maintained to avoid an injury.
Documentation of all repairs and inspections is a must if a court case does arise.
Total immunity does not exist. Businesses can do everything in their power to make their premises safe, but if a fall still happens, there’s nothing a small business can do to stop a lawsuit from being filed.