The Three Words Retailers Dread
“Slip and fall” – those three words are not just every retailer’s nightmare, but they’re also seen by many people looking to make a quick buck as the fastest way to get a retailer, or for that matter any other company, to pay out.
Slip and fall accident lawsuits are an epidemic in the United States. If you’re a retailer, chances are very high that at some point you’ll be named in a slip and fall lawsuit by someone who claims she/he was injured by a fall on your property. You don’t have to be a Wal-Mart to be named in a slip and fall lawsuit. Even a small grocery store owner or café owner could find himself trapped in a quagmire of inflated legal bills and compensation payments.
Typically, these claims name the owner of the property. However, there are other people who can be named in a slip and fall lawsuit. For instance, if you’re the manager of a property that has been the site of an injurious fall, you may be named in a claim. Besides, operators of a property, and even tenants, can be named in a slip and fall lawsuit.
There are other persons who may also find themselves being held liable on injurious fall. For instance, service providers like janitorial companies may be held liable if they have been held responsible for the injurious fall to some extent. If you are a franchiser, you may be held liable in a fall on a franchisee’s property.
Laws may vary from state to state, but broadly a property owner can be held liable if he was required to exercise reasonable care and maintenance of the property, and failed to do so. For instance, failure to inspect a property to look for any unsafe conditions could constitute negligence.
Slip and fall lawsuits have become pervasive, and this has meant a significant hike in the costs involved in defending these lawsuits. Fortunately, in some states, legislators have been proactive in restricting the ability of people out for a quick buck to sue property owners. For instance, the Florida legislature earlier this year, passed two bills that severely limit slip and fall lawsuits against businesses.
The bottom line is that if you have any type of storefront, retail space, or office in which clients or the public enter, you are well served to take proactive steps to reduce the chance of a slip and fall in the first place, and in the event it does happen, you have both great insurance, as well as a solid asset protection plan in place deter any lawsuits by reducing the economic incentive to sue. An ounce of prevention really does equal a pound of cure.