Premise liability is a theory in law that holds property owners liable for injuries suffered on their land, regardless of whether they caused the damage or not. It includes those injuries that occur on their land and those that occur off their land but are open to the public.
Examples of Premises Liability Issues
A simple example involves a neighbor getting hurt on your property. Say the neighbor’s cat got loose. You have a reasonably amicable relationship. The cat runs over your backyard fence, and the neighbor feels as though it’s just a one-time situation that entering your backyard won’t be a problem. They misjudge their distance and land wrong after jumping over your fence. In this case, if you didn’t put up a “no trespassing” sign, then you may be liable for their injury.
This thinking follows suit in the business world. Say you own a pool or go-cart track. Even if these aren’t on your property, but instead in another building nearby, that publicly accessible area is still part of your “premise.” The simple rule to follow here is: If it’s outside but meant to be open to the public and advertised as such, then it’s probably considered part of your premise. Here are some other example scenarios:
- A person slips and falls because of hidden ice on the snow-covered sidewalk outside your place of business.
- An employee bumps their head on an object that is not usually sticking out into the walkway.
- A restaurant patron slips on a previously mopped-up grease spill and falls, hitting their body on the table on their way down.
- A person trips over a sidewalk that’s bulged due to a tree branch.
Ways to Avoid Premises Liability Nightmares
Slowing down and observing where on your business property an accident can occur goes a long way in shaping the steps you take to avoid accidents and injuries and thus getting sued by an employee or a patron.
- Invest in safety nets. The safety nets could be guardrails, padding, or anything else that may keep people from slipping and falling. These will cost you a little money upfront, but they’ll save you a ton of time and money in the long run.
- Monitor your premises. Be sure to monitor the areas where injury-causing items are present and take care of them promptly. If there is leftover grease on your floor, scrub it up before someone slips on it. If there are exposed nuts near an open kitchen area where someone with an allergy could breathe the dust in, remove them and clean thoroughly. Never allow construction employees to leave protruding nails sticking up on discarded boards or broken glass littered anywhere.
- Make known hazards seen. Use yellow warning stands, cones, or tape to block off an area until the threat can be dealt with.
- Place notices where they can be seen. It would need to be something obvious and posted so that employees and customers know there is a risk of entering your space. It doesn’t have to be expensive signs, but just enough to understand the stakes, and they can choose whether they want to enter, understanding the risks present.
How a Premise Liability Lawyer Can Help
It’s important to know what your obligations and risks are as a property owner. A premise liability lawyer can assess the everyday things your business may need to shore up to provide a safer environment. The lawyer can draw up contracts for employees or liability waivers for customers if your type of product or service warrants this. Personal injury lawyers like Breakstone, White & Gluck are adept at this.
If all these measures seem overwhelming, don’t worry! Taking the time to be aware, taking steps to mitigate accidents wherever possible, and drawing up the proper legal frameworks can help protect your business interests in spades. Staying safe for you, your employees, and your customers are always worth it. A qualified premise liability lawyer can help.