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Slip and Fall Cases – A Serious Risk for Business Owners

Most business owners have their attention focused on the day-to-day operations of their business, as well as its immediate and future success. The majority work hard to present a positive image of the business, improve sales and keep customers happy. Very few are worried about the risk of accident or injury, despite the fact that slip and fall cases can pose a serious and costly risk for business owners.

Under premises liability laws, business owners have a duty to reasonably maintain their property and premises in such a way so as to keep customers and invited guests safe. If a broken stairwell goes unrepaired, a leaky pipe is allowed to drip to the point where water pools on the ground, or an uneven sidewalk is not fixed in a timely fashion, it can pose a significant danger. In these situations, if a customer were to slip and fall due to an unsafe condition the business owner should have been previously aware of and taken prompt action to fix, that business owner could be liable for any injuries or loss caused as a result of his or her negligence.

The Severity of Slip and Fall Accidents

The severity of injuries in a slip and fall accident will largely depend on the surface where the accident took place, the cause of the accident, the force of impact, and the age of the victim. Some people will only suffer bumps and bruises after a slip and fall, while others may suffer broken bones, severe back and neck injuries, and traumatic head injuries. In rare instances, an individual could succumb to injuries sustained in a slip and fall. The medical bills, rehabilitation costs, loss of income, and other accident-related expenses for which a business owner could be held liable will quickly add up.

In one case, an appeals court awarded $400,000 to the family of a victim who slipped, fell and broke his hip in a Target store parking lot. The man’s surviving family members received the award, as the victim and his wife had passed away before they were able to get their day in court.

Another woman was recently awarded $5 million dollars in a settlement brought about by injuries she suffered after slipping and falling on wet flooring glue at the school where she was a high school administrator. Her injuries caused long-term nerve damage and left her unable to walk without the use of the cane. She was later diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, as a result of her injuries, and requires assistance 24 hours a day.

What Business Owners Can Do to Minimize the Risk of Slip and Falls

Business owners can minimize their risk in slip and fall accidents by being diligent. Making sure walkways stay free of debris and clutter, keeping an eye out for potential slip and fall hazards, encouraging employees to report conditions which could prove dangerous, and following through with timely repairs can all reduce the liability a business owner may face. Even putting up wet floor signs can reduce the risk of injury and lower the potential for a premises liability case.

Take Care to Avoid Slip-and-Fall Accidents on Your Property

When it comes to slip-and-fall accidents, as a business owner, strong preventative measures are the key. You never want to see a customer have an accident due to carelessness and oversight on your part, so consider taking these steps beforehand to making your property the safest it can be for customers and employees alike.

Basically, your property needs to be safe for a “reasonable person,” that is, someone who is taking normal care to avoid danger, and is avoiding obvious obstacles. You as a business owner need to rid the property of any hidden or obvious dangers that could result in a slip and fall. The best thing you can do it to train all employees, especially managers, to be vigilant and to deal with these issues immediately. We’ll walk you through some tips address common causes of slip-and-fall injuries, and what you can do to prevent them.

Tips to Making Your Business Safer

  • First, consider seasonal hazards. One of the most common times for slip-and-fall injuries is, of course, the winter, when ice and snow make pathways hazardous. So, keep all sidewalks, driveways, ramps and staircases free of slippery ice and snow. In the fall, keep these areas free of fallen leaves, which can be surprisingly slippery as well. Remember that outside areas, if they are on your property, are just as much your responsibility to keep safe as the interior areas are.
  • Make sure there is no uneven flooring. A normal person isn’t looking down everywhere he or she walks, so if there is an uneven walking surface, broken tiles or other problems, he or she could easily trip and fall.
  • If anything gets spilled, put up a warning sign, and clean it up quickly. This is very common in restaurants, where even a flying toddler’s drink can create a slippery hazard. It may also come in car-repair businesses, where grease puddles can be especially treacherous. More generally, this can also be a seasonal issue, as wet boots and umbrellas can create hard-to-see puddles.
  • Keep your property free of clutter. Without realizing, it, employees can often place materials in passageways or, even worse, in stairwells—so train them to keep these areas clear. Not only will this make the property more appealing and easy to navigate, but it will also prevent visitors from bumping into stray boxes or other items and hurting themselves, or falling down stairs. Also make sure that nothing is obstructing an exit pathway.
  • Put up warning signs beside any elevated surfaces. It may be common sense to be careful on a platform or a ladder, but remember that, as the owner, you’re used to them, whereas new visitors are not; it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Invest in good lighting. It may sound silly, but a dark environment is much more prone to accidents, especially for older people. Besides, better lighting will improve visitors’ overall experience at your business, so it’s well worth your while. Once again, this includes exterior as well as interior lighting.

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