Business Owner Liability in New York City
In New York, all property owners have a legal responsibility to keep their premises free from unreasonable safety hazards. This means that all businesses have a duty to look out for the wellbeing of customers and passersby. The failure to live up to this duty is negligence. When businesses are negligent, very serious injuries can occur. In the unfortunate event that you were injured on the premises of a New York City business, you may have a premises liability claim.
Business Owners’ Obligations
Business owners who invite customers and others onto their properties must:
- Inspect their properties regularly to identify risks, dangers or hazardous conditions that could cause an accident, such as a fall.
- Correct any defects, dangers or security risks that are identified in an inspection or that the business owner ought to be aware of.
- Warn patrons about any defects or dangers that the business owner is unable to correct.
If a business owner fails to take reasonable steps to ensure customers are safe while on the property, the owner may be held legally liable for accidents that result. This includes, for example, situations where a business owner knew of a high risk of crime but failed to provide adequate security. It also includes situations where customers are hit by falling debris or products, or when customers are injured in a fall.
Problems can exist indoors or outside of a business. For example, business owners may be responsible if someone slips in their parking lots, or if someone falls while walking on hazardous flooring inside the store.
Businesses may be responsible not just in situations in which they own the property, but also when they are in control of maintenance. For example, a business that rents a storefront and fails to take care of the parking lot or the indoor space could be held responsible if a patron falls, even though the business does not own the property where the accident happened.
Business Premises Liability: Common Types Of Cases
Injuries at businesses can occur for many different reasons. The following are some of the most common causes of injuries on commercial premises:
Slip and fall accidents: Slip and fall accidents are the most common cause of serious injuries at New York businesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 3 million Americans visit the emergency room because of fall accidents every year. This includes many thousands in New York City. These accidents often occur at businesses because of wet floors that were unmarked or damaged floors that were unrepaired. Suffering a slip and fall at a business can lead to many different types of injuries, including concussions, fractures, back injuries and broken hips.
Property defects: Many injuries occur because of the failure of businesses to repair defects on their property. The failure to conduct regular maintenance can create very dangerous conditions. To make matters even worse, many easy property repairs are needlessly ignored. For example, something as simple as the failure to replace a broken lightbulb can create very dangerous conditions for patrons.
Falling objects: Falling objects are also a major safety concern in New York. Falling objects can occur in numerous different situations. One common example is when construction or repair work is being done on property. If property managers fail to take proper care to mark off certain areas while work is being done, customers could unwittingly be put in a very dangerous position. Falling objects can also occur if property is negligently left unrepaired. For example, brick chunks may fall off of the side of the building. In the event that these falling objects strike a person, a very serious injury such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be the result.
Poor security: Injuries on commercial premises can also occur because of the failure of the business to provide the proper level of security. This type of premises liability claim is known as an inadequate security claim. There are several different types of issues that could lead to an inadequate security claim, including lack of security personnel, poor screening at the entrances, undertrained staff, lack of surveillance cameras and faulty door locks.
Dangerous Floors and Business Owner Liability for Falls
Dangerous floors are one of the leading reasons why customers fall at businesses. Some of the situations where falls are most likely to occur include when:
- Floors are wet and patrons aren’t properly warned. Floors may be wet due to cleaning, spills or because other patrons track in snow or rainwater.
- Slippery floors aren’t cordoned off. If there are either no barriers or inadequate barriers to keep patrons off of slippery floors, this can increase the risk of fall injuries.
- Too much polish or wax is used, or the treatment is applied unevenly. This can make all or part of the floor very slick and significantly increase the risk of a fall.
- Floor treatments are used on sloped or inclining areas or only part of a floor receives treatment. This can make the surface of the floor change from one step to the next, causing a patron to lose footing.
- Non-skid flooring isn’t used in dangerous areas. Storefronts where patrons track in snow and water should typically have a non-skid flooring surface, as should bathrooms where floors are routinely wet.
- Carpets, rugs or mats are torn, bulging, worn or curled. This can create a tripping hazard that endangers patrons, especially near exits and entrances.
- There is damaged flooring, uneven tile or holes in the floor. Cracked tile, uneven flooring surfaces and other damage can create a tripping hazard.
- Snow and ice is not removed from sidewalks or parking lots.
If conditions are unsafe and a business’ failure to correct the danger or warn about it is considered unreasonable or negligent, the business may be liable for resulting injuries.
Dangerous Stairs and Business Owner Liability
Stairs are another common site for falls at businesses. Dangerous conditions on stairs include:
- Worn or rounded stair treads.
- Wax or polish on steps without adequate warning.
- Failure to use non-skid material on slippery steps.
- Broken stairs or crumbling stair treads or railings.
- Violation of building codes applicable to stairs.
- Debris on stairways.
Dangerous Conditions on Elevators and Escalators
Elevators and escalators are a common source of injuries at businesses. Elevator and escalator injuries are especially likely to happen to younger children and can occur:
- If there is unexpected movement.
- If body parts, clothing or shoes become trapped in the mechanisms.
- If the escalator or elevator is not properly maintained.
- If elevator cables break or if elevator doors malfunction.
- If an elevator does not stop flush with the floor.
How Do You Prove Liability In A New York Slip And Fall Case?
In New York business premises liability cases, you will typically need to show that a business was negligent in order to recover compensation for your injuries. Negligence is the failure to take proper care in a given situation. This means that if there was an unreasonable risk on the premises of a business, and you suffered an injury as a result, the business could be held liable.
Unfortunately, businesses and their insurance companies are rarely willing to accept liability without a fight. That is why it is imperative that you have an experienced New York premises liability lawyer by your side as soon as possible after your accident. Your lawyer will be able to review the facts of your case and determine exactly what you need to do next in order to recover full and fair compensation. Your lawyer may start by asking three key questions:
- Did the business know, or should they have known, about the risk?
- Was your accident reasonably foreseeable?
- Could the New York business have taken action to reduce the risks of that accident?
Under New York premises liability law, a business may be held liable for an injury that took place on their property if: 1) the business knew or should have known about the risk, 2) the accident was foreseeable, and 3) the business could have possibly prevented it, but failed to take action.
To best way to understand how this works, consider the following hypothetical example. Coffee was spilled on the floor of a busy Brooklyn department store. The spill is reported to a manager who then looks for an employee to mop up the mess. However, the manager is unable to find an employee and gets distracted by another issue, leaving the mess on the floor. Fifty minutes later a woman slips on the spilled coffee and falls on the very hard floor. As a result, she suffers a severe back injury. In this case, the store could be responsible for the woman’s injuries. This is because the manager had knowledge of the problem. He also could have reasonably foreseen that a customer could have fallen and gotten severely injured. Finally, he could have taken reasonable action which would have removed the risk.
What Compensation Is Available For Victims Of Business Negligence?
In New York, victims of negligence are entitled to recover compensation for the entire extent of their damages. Specifically, if you were injured at an NYC business, you may be able to seek compensation for:
- All medical bills, including emergency room and ambulance fees
- Any costs associated with rehabilitation
- Lost wages and loss of ability to earn
- Long-term disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Disfigurement and loss of life enjoyment
Examples Of Recent New York Premises Liability Settlements
At David Resnick & Associates, P.C., our team has experience in New York City premises liability cases. We have a proven track record of success and we are ready to help you. The following is a small sample of the results that we have achieved for our clients:
We recovered $2,000,000 for a man who suffered a broken leg after a brutal assault inside a local bodega.
We obtained $1,750,000 for a local woman who seriously injured her neck after slipping and falling on a wet grocery store floor.
We helped a victim recover $1,000,000 after falling in a stairwell that had a broken light.
We recovered $650,000 for the victim of a slip and fall accident that occurred inside a local office building.
Contact Our New York City Office Today
At David Resnick & Associates, P.C., our attorneys have extensive experience handling premises liability claims in New York City. If you have been injured because of the negligence of a business, please contact our team today to schedule a free review of your case. Our firm proudly serves clients throughout the NYC region, including in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx.