Picture it. The parking lot to your business is packed with cars. Sales are sky-high and you are considering hiring more employees to keep up with the customer demand. Profits are up and so is your adrenaline. Then it happens. A customer trips over a huge crack on the pavement as she is walking to her car at dusk and is badly injured. A lawsuit is sure to follow.
As a small business owner, it is important that you (and your employees) take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence of a slip and fall accident on your business's property. What follows are some examples of common conditions that lead to slip and fall accidents outdoors, and the rules regarding a business owner's duties with respect to those conditions.
Ice or Snow Outside a Building
Generally, the law doesn't require a business owner to remove ice or snow that accumulates outside his or her building as the result of weather. However, if conditions on the property cause an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow, the business owner may be liable for slip and fall accidents, such as when:
In addition, if a business owner elects to provide snow or ice removal, he or she must not do so negligently.
Inadequate Outdoor Lighting
Inadequate lighting may also lead to accidents involving falls in parking lots, trips over curbing, falls on a step or stairs from a parking lot to a store, and trips and falls due to holes, cracks, and uneven surfaces. A business owner may be liable if he or she knew or should have known of the poor lighting and failed to remedy the situation.
A parking lot owner is responsible for maintaining the parking lot in a manner such that it is reasonably safe for people using it. This includes filling and patching cracks and holes. Additionally, differences in height from one section of the lot to another should be gradual rather than abrupt to prevent tripping injuries.
Generally, a business owner is not responsible for injuries resulting from a fall on a public sidewalk located outside his or her property, but owned and maintained by a city or town. However, some courts will impose liability on a business for injuries on a sidewalk used exclusively by customers coming to and from the business, and a property owner will be responsible when a dangerous condition exists on his or her own private walkways.
Getting Legal Help with a Slip and Fall Claim
Slip and fall accidents often lead to considerable medical bills and time away from work. In order to receive compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, injured individuals often choose to file a lawsuit against the person or company responsible for the conditions that caused the accident. A great first step in pursuing a potential claim is to contact an experienced business and commercial law attorney for a claim evaluation.