There is no doubt that incidents that might have gone relatively unnoticed years ago now can incur significant settlements or jury verdicts. Those who run businesses or manage properties can take simple steps to provide a safer environment for their guests and, if the worst happens and injuries occur on your premises, provide a strong defense against any claims. Here are a few tips.
Keep your properties in good repair. Routine maintenance, inspection and strong records of regular upkeep can help you defend any claim brought against you. Make your employees an extra set of eyes by training them to observe and report defects.
Respond promptly to complaints. Once you have “notice” that lights are out, locks damaged or other dangerous conditions are present, you must act promptly. Even a day’s delay can make a claim difficult to defend if proper repairs were not completed and an injury or death occurs.
Be careful whom you hire. Ensure that you check run background investigations and check references on employees and vendors, especially those who will have access to your premises. May sure any vendors you hire provide proof of insurance before you allow them to enter your premises. And just because you hire a vendor such as a management company to help make your property safer, a building owner generally has a non-delegable duty (meaning the responsibility for the land or building cannot be transferred to another) to ensure that the premises remain safe.
Determine the level of crime foreseeability and respond accordingly. The more dangerous the premises, the more responsibility you have to make the premises safe. How likely is a certain type crime to occur? In a low-crime neighborhood, it may be unlikely that a robbery or kidnapping would occur on the premises. A risk management survey to determine foreseeability will generally rank risk from not foreseeable to low to moderate to high. For a more thorough analysis of foreseeability, visit this URL.
Address security issues immediately. If you are in a high-crime area, consider private security or escorts to vehicles. Adequate lighting can go a long way in preventing incidents and defending them if something does occur.
The standard of care for landowners is generally one of “reasonable care.” Plaintiff attorneys will allege that certain steps to make the premises safer could have been taken, but were not and that lapse allowed the injury to occur. It is very hard to defend a case where simple or inexpensive fixes like better lighting or notice to residents of a problem could have prevented the incident.
For those who own or manage property, a record of proper maintenance and repair can go a long way in reducing your liability.