What Makes a Business Liable for Injuries?
A critical part of American injury law covers the liability of businesses for accidents that happen at their locations. That doesn't mean a business is liable for everything that goes wrong, though. Here are three reasons why an injury victim might successfully pursue compensation based on premises liability.
Events on the Premises within the Company's Control
The simplest reason a business may be liable is a failure to deal with something within its control that led to the incident. Consider a case where a victim is hurt in a slip-and-fall accident involving a wet spot during cleaning. For the business to be liable, the staff had to fail to address several things within its control. These include issues like warning the public to avoid the area and not using products that leave the floor slick after drying.
Generally, the store's staff also has to have reasonable time to learn what happened and respond. The business probably isn't liable, for example, if a person slips on something another customer spilled a few seconds before the accident.
The theory of strict liability applies on- and off-premises. This usually applies to dangerous activities, such as working with certain chemicals, explosive, exotic animals, and heavy machinery. If a defendant is strictly liable for something on its premises, a personal injury attorney will usually find that to be a fairly easy case. As long as the defendant's actions caused the accident, that's where the liability discussion ends.
Businesses with employees are nearly always liable for the conduct of their workers while on the clock. The business is vicariously liable, meaning it's liable even if specific parties representing the business aren't present at the time. An owner designates a manager to handle problems at a store, and by extension, the manager designates an employee to do the work. Even though the owner probably didn't do anything to cause an accident involving a customer, they'd be vicariously liable because the employee is an extension of the owner's powers and responsibilities.
Mix and Match
You'll note that there is a significant overlap between these theories. The vicarious liability of a business for an employee failing to put up "wet floor" signs, for example, crosses into the domain of premises liability, too.
From the perspective of a personal injury lawyer, more is always better. If a defendant is liable based on theories of strict, vicarious, and premises liabilities, it's a lot harder for them to wiggle out of responsibility by escaping one.
To learn more, contact a personal injury attorney near you.