(US law & generally) As a business owner, you are responsible for keeping your store, office or venue safe for your employees as well as for your clients and guests. Keeping your area free of hazardous conditions will not only protect those who come in contact with your business but it will also protect your business financially. Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility that is the property owners pertaining to anyone who might trip, slip or fall as a result of a dangerous condition.
Slip and fall premises liability issues often occur in the areas of floors, stairs and elevators or escalators.
Flooring and Premises Liability
Business owners have the responsibility to keep their floors free of hazardous conditions and populated with proper markings; if a guest slips and falls because of the flooring conditions, the business owner may be held responsible for these injuries.
Slipping and Falling as a Result of the following:
- Failing to remove snow and ice from walkways (inside and outside) and from parking lots;
- Torn areas or bulging areas of carpet or items that stick up from carpet that catch footwear;
- Raised or curled edges on a rug or mat causing uneven flooring;
- Damaged flooring or flooring with holes;
- Failing to close off an area, use proper signage and warnings where the floor is being cleaned, waxed or is wet for any reason;
- The use of excessive wax or polish on flooring;
- Applying floor treatments unevenly causing difference in conditions on the same flooring area;
- Using a slick flooring treatment where the flooring is sloped or inclined;
- Failing to use floor gripping or non-skid flooring treatment where necessary.
Stairs and Premises Liability
Next to hazardous floor areas, stairs are a main location where slipping and falling occurs on a premises. Business owners will likely be held responsible if a guest trips, falls or slips on a set of stairs if the following are present at the time of the accident:
- Stairs are not up to stair building code;
- There is debris on the stairs;
- There is a broken handrail or the handrail is not present;
- A slick finish or treatment (such as wax) has been used on the stairs and no grip or non-skid surface has been added;
- The stairs or broken or sections are crumbled;
- Steps have been worn or rounded.
Elevators or Escalators and Premises Liability
Escalators and elevators are often present in large venues such as a shopping mall, store, warehouse or large building. If the premises contain this type of transportation, the business holds a larger liability responsibility. If an injury occurs on an elevator or escalator, the business owner is likely to be held responsible when the following contributes or causes the accident:
- Sudden or unexpected change in movement;
- When articles of clothing are caught in the escalator or elevator;
- When body parts are caught in an escalator or elevator;
- Maintenance has not been performed therefore making the device unsafe.
Property owners are held entirely responsible for anyone on their property who slips, trips or falls resulting from unsafe flooring, unseen hazards, poor lighting, liquid spills and from ice and snow all due to improper markings or lack of maintenance. In the case of an injury, the business owner will likely be held responsible for medical expenses, financial loss due to time away from work, pain and suffering and in the worst cases – compensation for surviving family members if the fall resulted in a death.
This article was written by Smith, Gilliam, Williams and Miles, PA, an Atlanta Law firm specializing as Personal Injury Attorneys and Wrongful Death Attorneys. Founded over 30 years ago, the firm has been providing their clients with expert law advice and help in a wide variety of legal situations.