Who is Liable for a Slip and Fall Incident on My Business Premises?
If you own a business where members of the public, whether customers or suppliers, spend time on your premises, you may face public liability risks like a slip and fall incident. If someone slips, falls, and gets hurt on your property, are you liable to pay for the damages? Can they claim against you in a court of law?
The answers are, yes, no, and maybe. Let’s elaborate. In South Africa, responsibility rests on both the owner and the individual’s shoulders. The owner of the property is expected to take reasonable steps to minimise and prevent injuries from occurring to people on their property. Members of the public, or anyone on the business property, are also responsible for taking reasonable and appropriate care when on a business property.
The Burden of Proof for Public Liability Claims in South Africa
When a slip and fall incident occurs and a claim is brought against your company, the claimant most commonly needs to present evidence that proves your business was liable for the incident. That means the person claiming against you must prove that you had a duty of care and that you neglected to perform that duty. For example, you are responsible for cleaning up spills on your property’s floor. When the floor is wet, you should clearly mark it as a possible hazard with a sign. If your paving stones are laid unevenly and you do not fix it or at least make sure people are aware of the fault until it can be repaired, you might also be held responsible.
If someone slips on one of the stairs in your office building and falls, but they weren’t holding onto the hand railing, they might be held liable. That is, of course, unless the steps were wet without a sign. Each case is unique and there are no hard and fast rules, but legal costs can pile up once a claim has been instituted against you.
How Public Liability Insurance Can Protect You from Slip and Fall Claims
Public liability insurance is designed to cover the possible costs of a public liability claim brought against you and your business. This includes slip and fall incidents and other types of public liabilities. Even though your business takes every precaution, accidents happen. Employees make mistakes, and sometimes procedures fail. The best way to mitigate your risks when it comes to public liabilities is with public liability insurance.
Most companies need it, and in some cases, companies are even obliged to have public liability insurance in place. Liability claim costs can escalate quickly, and because each case is unique, the amount you may end up being liable for can be exorbitant and devastating. Many companies in South Africa offer public liability insurance either as a standalone option or as part of a business insurance package.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical, or financial advice. Facts stated in this article are correct at the time it was published.
Sources: Polity; claimhelp;