One sure-fire way for a business to get sued is if a visitor – a customer, vendor or anyone else – injures themselves while on your premises.
While you may already do all you can to keep employees and customers safe, you are likely still exposed to being sued if someone injures themselves in one of your facilities.
Alhough the most common situation that comes to mind is the slip and fall accident, your liability for injuries sustained on your property extends far beyond such injuries.
What you need to know
It doesn’t matter if you own your building or rent an office as once someone steps inside, you have a duty to makes sure they are safe.
Someone who injures themselves in an office that is rented will likely go after both the landlord and the tenant (you), but if they are in your offices, you will likely be the main defendant. Also, many landlords have clauses in their contract that require tenants to assume full responsibility for maintaining safety in the areas they rent.
Besides someone slipping and falling on your premises, there is a host of other liability risks that you may face, including:
• A visitor or an employee assaulting another visitor.
• A visitor being injured by machinery or equipment.
• Hazardous material that is seeping from your grounds into adjacent property or making neighbors sick.
Typically, if someone is injured on your property, in order to hold you liable, they need to prove negligence on your part and show that:
1. You knew a dangerous condition existed, or could exist.
2. You had a reasonable amount of time to repair the danger, but failed to do so.
3. The dangerous condition was the direct and proximate cause of their injuries.
4. They didn’t know the condition existed, or if they did, couldn’t avoid it.
5. Their reckless conduct didn’t contribute to the injury.
6. They didn’t agree to assume the risk or indemnify the owner from injuries.
While most commercial general liability insurance policies will cover many of the expenses of a premises liability lawsuit, lawyers’ fees alone can be expensive.
How to protect visitors and your firm
First, you should purchase a basic commercial general liability insurance policy. Typically, a basic policy covers up to $1 million in damages for less than $1,000 in premium.
Besides that, you should do the following to make sure your facilities are safe:
Inspect the facility – Form a committee with employees from each department to inspect all areas a visitor might enter. Look at individual workspaces and the overall facility. Doing this can help you detect potential risks before they injure someone.
Make corrections – Once you find an unsafe condition, you must correct it immediately. If that’s not feasible, shut that area down until it can be addressed.
Post a warning – If you detect or know of a dangerous situation, you should put up a warning sign that alerts employees and visitors to be careful and avoid the hazard until you can fix it. This even includes posting a “wet floor” sign after an area has been mopped.
Remember: If it’s your premises, whether rented or owned, it is your responsibility to keep your visitors safe. It’s not only common sense, but can also save you a lot of money and grief if you can avoid an accident and an expensive lawsuit.