Business owners face a double-edged sword. They need to open their business to the public, but doing so also opens their business to liabilities. As the owner of a business with a physical location, there is a certain level of responsibility to the public. The premises need to be safe. Failing to do so puts the general public and the business at risk. The solution is protecting your business against claims relating to premises liability. Speaking with an experienced lawyer at The Law Office of Jonathan Fleisher, Esq. at (732) 360-6409 can help you understand potential premises liability claims that could originate from your business property, and how to protect yourself legally.

What Is Premises Liability?

Small business owners that serve the public at a business location need to protect themselves. Accidents happen, and the majority of them are preventable. Premises liability is the term used for holding businesses responsible for someone getting harmed or injured while on the business’ property. This does not apply to employee injuries, which are covered by worker’s compensation. Visitors to a business’ premises would file a premises liability claim. This includes clients, visitors, customers, and vendors. Even some trespassers could qualify.

Potential Premises Liability Claims

When protecting your business against claims, you need to understand what types of claims you could face. The majority of claims are slip and fall, however, claims can originate from any incident where the plaintiff gets injured.

Trips, Slips, and Falls

To prevent slips, trips, and falls, businesses need to maintain the floor and ground in and around the building. Walking surfaces need to be kept clean, dry, and even. Look for these potential hazards and have them addressed.

  • Holes
  • Uneven flooring
  • Unmarked changes in elevation
  • Poorly marked potential hazards
  • Poorly marked transitions
  • Slippery materials, such as polished stone
  • Wet surfaces

Assaults or Thefts

It is challenging to predict the likelihood of theft or assault, but looking at past incidents in the area helps. The best approach is to make the business property less appealing to those who would commit this type of crime. By creating a safer environment, it ensures public safety.

  • Keep the landscaping trimmed to eliminate hiding spots
  • Add plenty of lighting
  • Use a security system with cameras
  • Implement a key system
  • Only allow authorized individuals in secure areas
  • Engage an alarm system when no one is on the premises

Fire Safety

Maintaining proper fire safety is crucial for everyone’s safety should a fire emergency occur. This means ensuring emergency exits are clearly marked, making a quick and safe escape possible.

  • Maintain a fire detection system
  • Maintain a sprinkler system
  • Regularly inspect emergency lighting and signs
  • Keep emergency exits clear

COVID-19 Premises Liability

The rise of COVID-19 presents some unique questions for businesses as they reopen their doors for business. Businesses operating in New Jersey have a duty to take reasonable measures to limit dangerous conditions for their customers. A business owner needs to discover and eliminate hazardous conditions so that they maintain safe premises. When it comes to COVID-19 liability, businesses have no specific heightened duty to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) or the New Jersey Department of Health guidelines. However, doing so could make it easier to show that the business exercised reasonable diligence. New Jersey also recognizes comparative negligence as an affirmative defense, which can reduce liability. Concerned business owners can consult with a lawyer from The Law Office of Jonathan Fleisher, reduce their liability and ensure they stay in compliance with the ever-changing COVID-19 best practices.

The New Jersey governor also issued Executive Order No. 102 that specifically protects the state’s healthcare providers. As long as actions taken are done “in good faith”, the providers are immune from civil liability for damages incurred from actions taken in response to COVID-19.

Insurance Coverage

Purchasing premises liability insurance protects both the business and the individuals visiting the business. Without it, one incident could throw a business into a catastrophic financial situation. If an incident occurs and a court finds the business liable, the insurance policy will cover the damages assessed by the court. Some policies also cover the cost of defending a claim. Therefore, insurance coverage is highly advisable for most businesses. Visiting with an experienced premises liability attorney at Fleisher Law NJ can help you determine all of your legal options.

Premises Liability Claim Defenses

When defending a premises liability claim, there are several defenses that a business can raise. Some mitigate or eliminate the damages. Others focus on proving that the injuries claimed are not as severe as claimed. Then there is the strategy of showing the plaintiff contributed to their injuries.

Pre-Existing Injuries

A business owner is not responsible for conditions or injuries that the plaintiff suffered before experiencing an accident on the business property. However, the plaintiff may claim compensation for the damage suffered that made a pre-existing condition worse.

Comparative Negligence

New Jersey is a comparative negligence state. The injured party’s negligent actions get factored into determining responsibility. The plaintiff’s contributions to their injuries reduce the amount they can recover for their injuries. As a business owner, proving contributory negligence will reduce liability.

Mitigating Injuries

All too often, an injured plaintiff will try to maximize their damages by showing their injuries are as serious as possible. If it is proven that the injuries sustained are minor, this can reduce the damages and the plaintiff’s possible recovery amount. Typically, strains and tears are the most common injuries to soft tissues like tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

Addressing an Accident

When an accident occurs on your business premises, the priority is the individual’s health. The next step is to gather as much evidence as possible. Take pictures or videos of the injuries, damages, and location. Have formal forms for documenting the incident. Collect the contact information for everyone involved and witnesses. Finally, be proactive about a potential case by contacting your business attorney and inform them of the incident.

Protecting Your Business From Premises Claims

Protecting your business against claims like premises liability injuries is essential to ensure the success of a business. These claims are sudden and unexpected. Without the right precautions and insurance in place, it only takes one to cripple a business financially. That is why the best way to protect a business is to be proactive. Consider speaking with an experienced lawyer at The Law Office of Jonathan Fleisher, Esq. at (732) 360-6409 and protect your business from a premises liability claim.