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Slip and falls: what business owners should know

Premises liability law in West Virginia states that business owners have a "duty of care" to the lawful entrants of their property, including both customers and employees. When that duty of care is breached and an entrant is injured on the property, he or she could file a claim. Small business owners should know, then, how to prevent such claims from being filed against them.

Slip and falls are the most frequent cause for premises liability claims. Entrants may slip on a wet floor or an icy sidewalk, trip over debris or a crack in the pavement or fall down the stairs after the railing comes loose. If the owner knew about these hazards and did nothing to mitigate them, that would be a breach of the duty of care. If the owner just learned of a hazard, though, he or she must be given a reasonable amount of time to mitigate it.

Where the owner is found responsible, he or she will be ordered to reimburse the victim for medical expenses, lost wages and whatever else applies. Even if the owner wins, there is the cost involved in mounting a legal defense. Maintaining and repairing the property, training employees and providing signage also costs money. Premises liability insurance can cost small business owners a minimum of $500.

Despite all precautions, accidents can still happen. Slip and fall victims who believe that their accident could have been prevented might opt to consult with a lawyer. If the case is solid, the lawyer might hire experts to find proof against the negligent business owner, including the incident report, if one was filed, and any surveillance camera footage or eyewitness testimony. The lawyer may be able to handle all negotiations, and if a fair settlement cannot be reached, the lawyer might discuss whether the victim should litigate.

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