As a small business, the prospect of legal action or lawsuits can be very worrying. However, if you are well informed and well prepared, you can protect your livelihood and reputation from personal injury claims. Here are a few circumstances which could land you in hot water with lawyers:
If your business is found to be negligent
Negligence is a very broad term as it covers a range of issues from security and health and safety to employee checks. Most lawsuits center on negligence, and while some cases are clear cut, the action must show that a duty of care has been breached, that the breach resulted in injury and how it has impacted the claimant’s life. Details will obviously vary depending on the company, but if you have premises or customers/clients have to come to you to buy or use your services then in most cases you will have a duty of care to them.
How can a duty of care affect your business?
The duty of care you have depends on the person who is visiting your premises. Visitors to your place of business fit into a range of categories; invitees, trespassers, and licensees. Your duty of care will vary depending on the state you are in and your relationship to the person who has been injured. Customers or clients are usually regarded as invitees. As a business, you have the highest care of duty to invitees, so it is important that they are advised/ forewarned of any potential hazards or dangers. It is also important that they are protected against any notable dangers, so, where possible, ensure that you do any maintenance work while your business is closed. If you have tripping hazards or wet floors, put up signs and make sure all staff are well trained when it comes to health and safety.
When it comes to the duty of care, trespassers have the least rights. They have no permission to be on your premises. However, if you have set up traps in a bid to harm them, and they are injured as a result of this, then you could be liable.
Visitors who are licensees
Licensees are usually people visiting for a limited reason. This could be visitors to a restaurant, public house or wine bar and in some cases visitors who are just using the restroom. These kinds of visitors must be warned of dangers and protected from hazards as much as possible. Businesses often protect these visitors by installing appropriate lighting for low light areas, having proper security, and refusing to serve visitors who are a danger to themselves or others.
What will the court look at?
The court will consider what duty of care your business should be exhibiting. This will be determined by your industry and what is reasonable. However, if you do not have procedures in place to prevent harm to customers such as inspections, warning signs and mats for wet floors then you could be liable. Furthermore, lack of cleaning, failure to do background checks on employees, or failure to repair hazardous equipment are a few of the many issues that can land you in trouble. If you have any doubt about your responsibilities, contact an attorney.