As a business owner, you need to take every precaution possible to keep your customers and clients safe. So many things can cause a slip and fall injury at your place of business, and to not protect yourself from a personal injury lawsuit is just a risky – and usually very expensive – business move.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control point out that senior citizens are the most apt to take a tumble, with over 2 million older folks visiting emergency rooms annually as the result of injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident. A large insurance company that provides coverage for the restaurant industry notes that falling down is one of the primary causes of restaurant accident injuries.
In Southwest Florida, it's no secret that a lot of our residents and visitors are senior citizens, especially during the peak winter season. A lawsuit for a serious injury sustained in a fall in a public place can be extremely costly, time consuming and may even result in putting you out of business. There are many preemptive steps you can take to minimize the chances of someone taking a tumble in your business or on your business property, no matter what type of business you operate.
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One of the main causes for a nasty slip and fall accident is a wet floor, and restrooms are prime locations for this situation. In order to ensure your public restrooms are maintained in a safe manner, you should develop a plan to make sure someone in your company does a thorough check of the facilities, and often – every hour at the minimum. If a toilet overflows or a customer spills a fluid on the floor, it's a recipe for disaster. Be sure to have proper cleaning products and tools to handle any liquid spills completely and quickly, and monitor the oversight of the restrooms religiously. You also need to have “wet floor” signs to be placed near any spills immediately – to not notify customers of a potentially dangerous wet floor is just begging for a lawsuit. Also, you should have commercial-grade grab bars installed in the bathroom stalls.
With so many liquids of all types available in grocery stores, it's no wonder we so often hear, “cleanup on aisle 3”. A customer or store employee can accidentally drop a container of liquid and cause a serious slip and fall accident hazard. Be sure to have adequate signage for “wet floor” readily available, and place them near the wet area immediately. Make sure you have a plan in place to get the spill cleaned up right away.
The entry foyer in a restaurant needs to be welcoming, inviting – and safe. Many establishments use heavy industrial floor mats in their lobby areas, and those can actually be a fall hazard. If they are not completely flat on the floor's surface, someone could trip on them. Also, in a rainstorm, water can be tracked into the lobby, making the floor wet. If you utilize mats like these in your business, make sure you keep new, dry ones on hand to replace any wet or defective ones right away. Keeping a mop and “wet floor” signs immediately available is also a good idea, and make sure you have a designated employee – like the host or hostess – in charge of monitoring the lobby area to stay on top of any potentially dangerous conditions. Aside from a wet floor scenario, make sure your establishment is adequately illuminated, to avoid someone from not seeing any unsafe or hazardous situations. If you serve alcohol in your restaurant, make sure you have a specific system in place to have your employees, servers and bar staff keep an eye out for people who are dangerously intoxicated. Few things can increase the possibility of a serious slip and fall accident than a drunken patron.
In case you haven't figure it out yet, businesses that are known for having any kind of liquids involved with their operation have a higher degree of risk when it comes to a slip and fall accident. Leaking washing machines, spilled detergents or fabric softeners and even someone spilling a soda on the floor can all lead to a fall injury to one of your customers. In many cases, Laundromats are not adequately supervised, which means a wet floor can go unnoticed for an extended period of time. You should make sure to place absorbent mats on the floor in front of all the wash machines. You may also want to install paper towel dispensers around your laundromat in multiple locations to help your customers with cleaning up any spills they create.
As experienced personal injury attorneys, we have handled many cases in which we represent an injured person who fell in a place of business. There are many situations, other than a wet floor, that can cause a customer to fall down and hurt themselves in your business. Here are just a few recent examples of jury verdicts and settlements awarded in Florida:
- A 41-year-old Florida man fell on a Gatorade sign that was lying on the floor while shopping at a Walmart in Port St. Lucie and was awarded almost $1.3 million.
- A medical student collected over $18 million after he fell through an uncovered manhole
- A female victim was awarded over $12 million after suffering a severe brain injury when she slipped in a small puddle at a gas station.
- A cruise ship employee slipped and fell on a wet floor during his work hours, and was awarded over $9 million for his personal injury caused by the slip and fall accident.
- A victim slipped in an oil puddle which resulted in permanent disability from back problems, and was compensated almost $6 million for his pain and suffering.
To avoid the potentially astronomical costs and even the possibility of losing your business, business owners need to take every possible precautionary measure to make sure people are safe in their store, office or business.