We’ve all had it happen: you’re out and about, shopping along the Magnificent Mile, dining by the harbor, visiting a friend, and suddenly you suffer some kind of embarrassing misfortune. Say, for instance, that you slip and fall. In the best-case scenario, the only thing that you manage to injure is your pride.
You dust off your pants, get back up, and laugh it off, hoping that not too many other people noticed. But what if the impact doesn’t end there? What if you seriously hurt yourself? What if you aren’t able to work as a result of your injuries?
Did you know that there are actually certain safety conditions that all property owners are supposed to meet in the United States?
Of all of the situations that can give someone the basis to pursue a premises liability case, slipping and falling accidents are one of the most common. These types of accidents can be caused by anything, ranging from failure to properly mark hazards to neglecting to provide adequate lighting.
Thankfully, for property owners, there are many precautions that can be taken in order to prevent slips and falls. Staircases and ledges should always be well-lit with overhead lighting or easy-to-install, energy-efficient LED lights, drawing attention to each drop-off point, and well-marked with reflective tape or proper signage to ensure the safety of guests. Proper signage is also necessary to prevent slips and falls from more temporary hazards.
This includes the use of wet floor signs to mark slippery spills, signs posted on roadways and walkways to warn of potential icing, or even caution tape in the case of larger hazards.
Exposure to Toxic Chemicals and Substances
Toxic chemicals and substances, while less obvious than a poorly-lit staircase or a spill, can be extremely dangerous if not properly taken care of. Thankfully, there are preventative measures to ensure that spaces are not infected with carcinogens and otherwise toxic compounds.
In most US states, commercial properties with gas-burning appliances–hot water tanks, furnaces, ovens, etc–are required to have at least one carbon monoxide detector placed in every 10,000 square feet of space, or within one story (one floor) of any fuel-burning appliances or attached garages for private residences.
Asbestos and radon, two other silent killers, are not required testable materials, but rather recommended. The exception, in this case, is if there are crumbling materials that are suspected of containing asbestos or if you are planning to disturb materials suspected to contain asbestos, possibly if you are renovating your property.
The results of asbestos tests are required by commercial property owners, under the laws of OSHA, to be disclosed to any third-parties that enter the building. In Chicago, private property owners are only required to disclose the results of these tests to prospective buyers in the case that the property is being sold.
Another way that property owners can protect their guests is by making sure that all of the interactions they have while on the property are safe.
For commercial property owners, this means that they must have adequate security for whatever services they provide–for instance, a bar would need more security than a pizza shop, since, under normal circumstances, the customers are expected to be a bit rowdier–and all employees must have passed thorough background checks before being allowed to work.
For private property owners, guests must be notified if there is the potential that they could be harmed by an animal on the premises, such as a family pet.
Property owners could be held liable for an harm sustained to guests if they fail to meet the correct requirements in warning against or preventing danger. When considering what financial responsibilities the property owner would face in a case like this, medical bills are often the first thing to come to mind, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Getting injured could impact your life in ways you might not have even considered. It could hinder your ability to work, or your ability to keep up with your daily responsibilities–both of which could put a strain on your relationships with others as well as on your own mental well-being.
For these reasons, in addition to medical bills, property owners could be held responsible for any pain and suffering, or any wages lost by the victim during recovery, among other things.
So, the next time you find yourself taking an embarrassing tumble in public, try to see the silver lining. In hindsight, it likely could have been prevented.