Anytime you have people into your home or business, you risk the chance that you could get sued for negligence if one of those people is injured. Negligence, by definition, means an accident. That means that you can have the best intentions, and still, someone can get injured. Under Illinois premise liability statutes, you could be liable for injuries, and thus, have to pay for the damages that a person suffered on your property.
Although you can’t plan for every contingency and event, there are things that you can do, as a homeowner or as a business owner, to keep your property safer, and minimize the risk of accidents. The goal is to make those accidents that cause injury, less likely to happen.
Not every part of your property can be safe, all the time. For example, in private homes, there may be cracked pavement that juts out, causing an obstruction to someone who walks in the area. You may have an object, like a vacuum cleaner, that may protrude into a walkway.
Businesses may need to clean the floors, which entails having part of the floor slippery for a short period of time. Also, with customers coming in and out, a dangerous condition, like mud or water being tracked through the store, can be expected and result in a negligence claim.
You should try, if possible, to warn other people of potential dangers that you know exist, even if they are out in the open. This can be done verbally, of course, which is an okay strategy for private homes. But, it may also be better just to block areas off, or rope areas off, temporarily, if it seems that they may present a danger. Businesses should invest in ropes, cones or signage to be used for this reason.
Signage should also be used to warn people where they should not go. For example, a sign can avoid a curious customer from going into a store’s stock area to look for an item or from going into a car repair garage area. All areas that could be potentially dangerous.
Although it is not always a guarantee, having clear, obvious warnings can go a long way to protecting you from liability. To learn more about premise liability in Illinois, please reach out to the Illinois premise liability lawyers at Claim Your Justice.
Businesses don’t always have to keep their property safe every single minute, but they do have to take actions and measures to show that they are diligently and properly monitoring their area.
Businesses should keep employees who monitor cleanliness on a set cleaning schedule and have a cleaning schedule that allows for an employee to scan for dangerous conditions regularly. Employees should have a log or some way to document when each area of the store was observed or cleaned.
There is no bright-line time limit that says that you need to observe or clean your home or business every 3, 5, or 10 minutes. How often is enough to protect you from liability, depends on the circumstance. Sweeping or mopping every hour may be fine on the average Tuesday, but on a Saturday or the day before Christmas, it may be too little. For private homes, if you have a party with 20 people, you may need to clean more often than you would if you just had 1 or 2 close friends over.
This may be more applicable to private homes. In homes with children, you may find your home ends up as the meeting grounds for play dates with your child’s friends. Too many times, homeowners see playdates as temporary babysitters or the adult’s time to rest. As a result, the kids “play on their own.”
However, this is irresponsible and dangerous, especially for younger kids. Younger kids should never be left alone, unattended. You, as the supervising adult, may be held liable for failure to supervise young kids who are injured on your watch.
This becomes especially dangerous when kids are unsupervised while doing dangerous (or potentially dangerous) activities. For example, swimming, motorbiking, or playing physical games, all require your constant supervision as an adult. This is aside from the fact that young children can often be friends one minute, and physically fight the next. In this case, it takes you, as an adult, to stop this from happening.
A business doesn’t have a general duty to watch over or supervise its patrons. This is unless it is in a business where it is foreseeable that danger, harm, or violence could occur. Bartenders and other associated workers may need to watch over bar patrons to avoid violence and overserving of alcohol, for instance. Another situation could be if your business handles vulnerable populations, like younger kids or the elderly.
This may sound like common sense, but it is often very easy that a business-owned ladder, forklift, box, or another item, large or small, ends up obstructing somewhere people will walk. Do not rely on the belief that someone will surely see the item, and thus, could not fall on it. Although something being out in the open is a valid legal defense, it is not foolproof, and should not be relied upon.
Businesses should have written policies, and employees should be trained. Often, accidents happen when untrained employees leave obstructions in walkways for just seconds. Think about someone stocking a shelf. Should they walk away from the stocking cart for a few minutes, it becomes a hazard in the walkway. That could lead to an unsuspecting patron being harmed by tripping over the cart.
Homes should also make sure that there aren’t items on the floor or walkways. This can be more difficult with homes that have children. A small toy in a doorway or jutting out from under a cabinet can end up being a dangerous item that causes someone else to fall.
Certainly, crime is random, and a business cannot always ensure that visitors don’t end up as crime victims. However, there are things a business can do, to ensure that the people who visit the business are free from crime.
Consider your property and whether you need human security guards. This could be either inside the premises or around it. Additionally, think about how many you need, and whether that security needs to be trained as security. Potentially, it may be necessary to hire professional guards from an actual security company. In other situations, maybe security can be taken care of using one of your employees equipped with a phone or walkie-talkie to communicate with authorities if needed.
Even if you decide that you don’t need human security, other things can be done, to make it harder for you to be sued if someone is the victim of crime on your premises. For example, lighting in parking lots and video cameras on the premises can go a long way to minimizing the risk of a crime event happening on your property.
The physical items around us break down and need repair or replacement over time. You should be aware of the things on your property that may need repair and handle them accordingly. If something needs repair and can’t be repaired for some reason in a reasonable amount of time, you should take measures to warn other people of the dangerous condition.
Some things that tend to break down, which we may or may not notice include:
You can’t control if it rains or snows, or if a customer tracks mud from outside, inside your property. But there are things you can do to address and minimize the danger.
For example, some types of flooring are more slippery when exposed to ice, snow, or rain, than other flooring may be. Some types of flooring are just naturally slick.
Often, your flooring can be coated or treated in ways that give it more friction.
If it is raining or snowing, businesses may want to assign an employee to regularly monitor the area around the doorway to keep it clean and dry. Of course, a mat or carpet at the doorway can also help ensure that snow or ice doesn’t get tracked inside the property.
No matter what kind of problem you are trying to avoid, some of these problems require common sense application of policies and procedures, while others may require some kind of consultation with an expert in a safety or security field.
The good news is that you may be able to lower the cost of your insurance or get other tax benefits, from the money that you spend on these security measures or improvements to your store. That’s not to mention the peace of mind that you will have knowing that if something were to happen on your property, you will have a solid defense to any claim that may be brought against you.
Call our Schaumberg personal injury attorneys at Claim Your Justice to schedule a free consultation if you are injured on someone else’s property at 847-434-3555.
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