As a business owner there are many possible issues that could result in a lawsuit being filed against you or your business. Here are some issues that arise in the area of personal injury law and how you can protect yourself and your business.
If a customer, contractor or guest is injured on your property, you could be liable under premises liability. This legal theory holds property owners are liable for injuries and accidents that occur on their property. Different visitors have different legal statuses, such as invitee, licensee or trespasser. The status of the visitor determines how onerous the business’ duty to protect against an injury.
Most visitors to your company would be considered invitees (someone invited for business purposes) and you would have the utmost duty to repair and correct known dangers on your property and to reasonably inspect for unknown dangers.
Take efforts to make sure floors are lit, clean, dry and even with a non-slip surface. Safety equipment issued to workers should be issued to visitors. Parking lots should also be well lit and maintained. Any hazardous areas in your control, in the parking lot or in your facility, should be roped off or at least have warning signs posted.
If an employee hurts a customer or an innocent bystander you could be held responsible. The legal theory of vicarious liability means an employer can be liable for an employee’s actions committed in the course of doing his or her job. Effective training and supervision of employees can help protect your business but accidents happen.
This can be a very big issue if your employees drive vehicles or operate heavy equipment at worksites. Vehicles and equipment need to be regularly maintained and safe to operate. If you’re skimping on repairs or maintenance to save money and someone is injured as a result, plan on having a very bad day in court.
If you sell a product that contains a defect that makes it unusable for its intended purpose or unreasonably dangerous and someone is injured as a result, your business could face a product liability lawsuit claiming a breach of warranty (express or implied), negligence or strict liability. Depending on the number of products and injuries you could also face a class action lawsuit.
Products need to be engineered and manufactured to be safe for their intended purpose, contain proper instructions and warnings and not be marketed for uses their not designed for. Complaints of defects and/or injuries by users need to be taken seriously and maybe should result in changes to the product design, the manufacturing process, instructions or warnings.
Most personal injury cases involve more than one cause of action with negligence probably being the most common. Your business may be found negligent if,
- Your company had a duty to act reasonably or a duty of care to the plaintiff,
- That duty was breached,
- That breach was the proximate (or legal) cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and
- Due to the injury, the victim suffered damages (such as medical bills, lost work time, pain and suffering).
Generally speaking if you use reasonable care in fulfilling your duties to customers and visitors, you should be in good legal shape if you’re sued.
If an employee is injured on the job and in the course of his or her duties, or develops a work related disease or medical condition, a workers’ compensation claim could result. By law you must have workers compensation insurance. Failure to do so is a crime, a misdemeanor punishable by either a fine of not less than $10,000 or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or both, as well as possible financial penalties of up to $100,000 against illegally uninsured employers.
Employers need to try their best to maintain a safe workplace. Safety policies need to be created, employees must know about them and they must be enforced. What safety threats your employees face depend on the nature of your business and how their work is carried out.
If at all possible, obtain insurance with the best possible coverage you can afford to protect you and your business against personal injury claims. If you’ve been sued, or have issues with your insurance company because of such claims, contact our office so we can discuss your situation, the legal claims and possible defenses.