By Lauren Bennett

Running a business is hard enough — managing cash flow, keeping track of inventory, and meeting deadlines are all part of the business process. But, what happens when an unexpected event, such as an onsite accident, occurs? Thousands of premises liability lawsuits occur in the U.S. each year, leading to millions in settlements and verdicts.

According to Joseph Cullan, a premises liability lawyer who has handled hundreds of premises liability cases, “Any injury arising from a property owner’s negligence may fall under the category of premises liability.” Meaning, it’s best to be prepared BEFORE any type of accident occurs, in order to protect your business and save thousands, and potentially millions of dollars.

Here is some valuable information on premises liability and how to prevent a lawsuit.

1. You are responsible for every customer who steps inside your business.

As a business owner, you are responsible for whoever steps into your place of business — whether it be a customer, client, employee or vendor. Surprisingly, even trespassers have limited protections under premises liability law. Trespassers can have a valid premises liability claim if they are injured on your property — although the specifics of these differ from state-to-state. According to Cullan, “When property owners fail to maintain, fix, or disclose hazards, they may face responsibility for resulting injuries.”

Even if you are renting the building in which your business is in, you are still liable for any injuries incurred inside your business, not your landlord. Clauses stating this are typically included in commercial lease agreements, so that the landlord does not carry the primary burden. This means that even if the victim sues your landlord for negligence, your business is on the hook for the lawsuit expenses.

2. It’s not just slip and fall accidents.

Slip and fall accidents are certainly the most notorious type of premises liability cases, however, they are just one of the numerous types of accidents that fall under the premises liability umbrella. Any type of injury that could have been prevented or foreseen is included under premises liability, such as dog bites, inadequate security, water leaks or flooding, elevator accidents, toxic fumes, inadequate maintenance of the premises, and more.

3. Commercial general liability insurance can help.

The best advice offered to brick and mortar business owners is to purchase a commercial general liability insurance policy. The policies are issued to businesses to help protect them against claims involving personal injury or property damage. Some policies start at only $500 and will cover up to $1 million in premises liability lawsuits.

4. There are things you can do to prevent accidents.

Having insurance coverage is only part of the solution. You should also take steps to prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

  1. Inspect your premises. Businesses and their employees need to act diligently to ensure workspaces are kept clean and safe. Although this may sound like a time-consuming effort, it could help prevent injury and save the company thousands, and possibly even millions, in the long-run. If a potential hazard is spotted, the business owner or manager of the property should act swiftly and accordingly.
  2. Correct the issue. If a hazard is reported, then it must be addressed immediately. Failing to correct the issue can lead to a lawsuit, as stated above, and could cost a business thousands in the end. Correcting the issue as soon as possible is the best way to prevent accident and injuries from happening.
  3. Warn of the hazard. If the hazard is not immediately fixable, display warning signs for employees and customers. A “wet floor” sign is a perfect example of prudent warning. Business owners should work diligently to fix the issue as soon as possible even when a warning sign is displayed. A warning sign not only keeps customers and employees from potential harm, it can alleviate you of some liability should an accident occur.

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to premises liability lawsuits and how to prevent them. It’s always important to remember that preventing and addressing hazards immediately and having a safety plan in place in case of an accident are the best ways to keep you and your customers safe. Although business can be uncertain at times, you should not need to worry about legal issues as well.