Even in the digital age, many businesses continue to have some form of real world presence. Retailers may have outlets in their local town or city (yes, these do still exist in the Amazon era) while businesses providing online services may still open their doors for clients to visit. In either case, businesses run the risk of falling foul to a personal injury claim if one of their customers has an accident on the premises that could have been prevented. However unlikely it might seem, these incidents do occasionally occur. When they do, they can force you to make major and unnecessary pay-outs in compensation that, particularly for a new small business venture, might put your company under stress. Therefore, ensuring you avoid them is crucial.
The best piece of advice to begin with for businesses is to take immediate and serious action to remove anything that might make them legally responsible should a visitor injuring themselves on the property. Most of these cases are judged on whether there was fault by the accused party. However, proving fault in a case where someone has hurt themselves can be quite challenging and there is no set-in-stone method by which this is done. It is judged by whether the business is seen to have acted carefully to ensure the incident would not occur or were, instead, being negligent. For instance, a business that is poorly lit or has a broken staircase will likely be found at fault. If a customer was merely unbalanced and, for example, fell into a piece of furniture on your premises, it will most probably be considered an unfortunate accident. Generally, personal injury lawyers suggest that an accident must have caused harm (e.g. broken bones, fractures) rather than simple bruising, but that doesn’t provide businesses with an excuse to leave minor issues like cracked flooring or damaged lighting unattended to. It is a gamble that is simply not worth taking.
Businesses may wonder what the likelihood of being found responsible will be if they were, however, unaware of the problem. If there was a spillage on the floor that no-one at the company had been aware of, would they be equally to blame as a company that did? This can be quite a tricky area of law because it relies on whether a “reasonable” person would have been conscious of the danger. The law may feel that businesses claiming they were ignorant of, for example, a damaged staircase its employees and customers use to enter the building everyday should have noticed the hazard and repaired it. Your case should be much stronger if you can prove that damaged occurred only moments before and no-one had used those stairs since. But, it should go without saying that business owners who are conscious of a risk yet disregarding their duty to care for people on the premises will face significant pay-outs if someone suffers an injury. You will probably be found at fault and have to pay their compensation.
So how can businesses protect themselves from any likelihood of this happening to them? One of the first things you should do, particularly if you intend to have many customers enter and exit your premises, is ensure your building is strictly up to code. It is also worth making regular inspections of both the interior and exterior of the property so that you are aware of any dangers (or even minor problems that could develop into dangers). In doing so, remember that the smallest things could balloon into a major problem; it might seem a waste of your valuable time to mop a small puddle at the back of the kitchen, but it’s nothing compared to lengthy legal disputes if someone does hurt themselves by chance. Keeping a checklist of your inspections will be helpful in the event that you are taken to court as it will help you prove you took reasonable care to prevent incidents.
Daniel is an online writer whose work has appeared on Yahoo, Tech Cocktail and many other websites. He is a journalism graduate who currently works for a digital marketing agency in the United Kingdom.