When researching last month’s article Black Ice: Slip & Fall Risk about the dangers of black ice, we came across many articles on the legal aspects of personal injury and the liability it creates for business owners. Injuries can occur any time of year, but the winter months are especially tricky for parking lot owners. So, this month we are going to dive deeper into what risks business owners take if they are not meeting the Applicable Duty of Care on their premises. This is not intended as legal advice.
Everyone has a legal duty to act reasonably to avoid injuring other people and that duty of care applies to businesses as well. In fact, for most pedestrian incidents that occur in store parking lots, the injured party is considered an invited guest of the store or property owner, which means the owner has a higher duty of care. The Applicable Duty of Care is the standard applied in negligence claims. The duty of care standards can vary, but the gist is; reasonable care must be taken to correct all dangerous conditions on the property. Or, the existence of such conditions must be disclosed to the extent that the owner knows or should know about.
What Can Happen if You are in Breach of the Duty of Care?
An injured party can sue you for violating your duty of care by alleging negligence in a civil lawsuit.
They must prove four components in order to win:
Proving that You Have an Applicable Duty of Care
Proving that You Failed to Meet that Duty (Negligence)
Proving that they have had Damages
Proving Damages were caused by the breach of your Duty of Care (Causation)
We cannot stress the importance of maintaining your lot enough. Liability falls on the property owner if the upkeep and safety of your lot are not adhered to. By having a reputable plow company that is proactive in staying ahead of the storm and efficiently and effectively clearing your lots and sidewalks, you decrease the odds for possible accidents. Sidewalks need to be cleared and ice melt applications should occur regularly. Melted ice and snow can quickly refreeze as winter temperatures are constantly fluctuating between the freezing mark. Because of this, snow maintenance should continue throughout a storm, and after. Discuss with your plow company how to share safety notices with pedestrians/staff in regards to sidewalk safety and how they freeze before roadways do.
In addition to snow and ice issues, it’s important to alert people to hazards like potholes or broken pavement. If you do not properly mark your lots, you’re increasing your liability. You’ll also want to make sure you are in compliance with the most recent ADA regulations. This includes having free-flowing traffic patterns and clearly definable parking spots.
There is an extensive amount of ADA regulations that must legally be met for your parking lot to be within compliance. Ignoring, or not understanding these regulations fully can result in ADA lawsuits. All ADA markings and spaces need to be clear and visible. If lines are not clearly visible accidents can occur. This is why repainting faded traffic markings and parking lot lines before winter is so important.
While not legal advice, we encourage you to take action promptly to address any potential safety hazards on your premises whenever they occur and especially throughout the winter season. East Coat Pavement Services has years of experience in developing plans for winter asphalt maintenance, and our team will ensure that you are best prepared to face the icy months ahead! Repair during winter isn’t impossible —and it can help ensure the longevity of your lot in the long run. Contact one of our professionals today to discuss your winter maintenance and repair plan!