Filing a personal injury claim against a business is typically much more complex than filing a claim against an individual. There are two main causes to file a personal injury claim against a business—premises liability and product liability.
Many businesses—particularly corporate giants—are well-equipped with seasoned legal teams to defend themselves in the courtroom, and to ensure you receive little to no compensation after filing a personal injury claim. Because of this, it is in your best interests to retain experienced personal injury lawyers, such as Greathouse Trial Law, for the best chance of recovering damages for your injuries.
Businesses have an obligation to ensure that customers are safe on their premises. Known as premises liability, company owners, managers and employees are required to provide adequate warning to hazards (such as a spill or broken equipment), take prompt and active measures to address these problems, and periodically inspect the premises on a regular basis for defects or dangers that may pose a direct threat to customer safety as part of what is known as duty of care.
Examples of responsibilities under duty of care include:
- Ensuring that all spills (either solid or liquid) are noticed and corrected as soon as possible, and that proper warning is given alerting customers of the spill until it can be corrected;
- Ensuring that all areas of the premises are well lit;
- Ensuring that customers are safe while on the premises; and
- Securing the premises to prevent accidental contact with hazardous materials (i.e. preventing cleaning supplies from contaminating food products in a restaurant)
For example, in a grocery store, managers owe a duty to safeguard customers against food or liquid spills on the floor by consistently checking for spills inside the building. If a spill occurs, managers should warn customers of the hazard (such as by placing a wet floor sign) and take prompt action to mop up the spill and clear any hazardous material from the area as quickly as possible. Failure to do so can result in civil liability should a customer slip and fall in the store.
Proving Fault in a Premises Liability Claim
In order to win a premises liability claim, it is necessary to prove that a business (or representative of a business) had ample notice of a public hazard, or had ample time to provide warning of (or otherwise correct) this hazard, but failed to do so properly. In addition, victims must also prove that all damages listed in the claim (such as a concussion after a slip and fall) occurred on the premises of the business and were a direct result of the incident.
After sustaining an injury on the premises of a business, be sure to report the incident to a manager as soon as possible. Many businesses typically will file an incident report, which you should request a copy of for your own records. This can help identify discrepancies between your story and the business’ story, and will help to prove that your injuries were sustained on the property.
If possible, take photos of the scene of the accident and speak to anyone who may have witnessed the accident to collect statements and contact information from them. This is done to reinforce your account of the incident—and will help to refute common defense tactics used by these businesses to pardon themselves of liability in a claim. The more evidence provided that shows you were indeed the victim of an unfortunate accident, the stronger your claim against a business will be.
Similar to premises liability, businesses also have a duty to ensure that the products they sell or distribute to consumers are safe and function as intended, and that any risks of usage are clearly outlined and communicated to customers. This is known as product liability, and businesses who knowingly distribute faulty or defective products that result in harm to consumers can be held accountable for allowing their product to enter the market.
Product liability claims are generally made against one (and occasionally, multiple) party, which is dependent on who is most liable for the product defect that resulted in consumer injury. Damages in product liability claims can be sought on three primary grounds, each with a different liable party:
- Manufacturing Defects: A product was improperly assembled or manufactured. Liability tends to fall on the manufacturer in these cases.
- Design Defects: A product was not designed in accordance with industry standards, or was designed improperly from the start. Liability tends to fall on the product designers and engineers in these cases.
- Marketing Defects: Warnings or warning labels are either too small for average consumers to read, or are absent entirely. Liability tends to fall on retailers or distributors in these cases.
Proving Fault in a Product Liability Claim
In order to substantiate a product liability claim against a business, a product must be shown to have been defective before it came into a consumer’s possession and that it was not changed or altered in any way. A consumer must also demonstrate that they were using a product following the manufacturer’s instructions, and that the injuries sustained were not a result of improper usage.
Finally, the injuries sustained must be proven to have been caused by a faulty or defective product. In the cases of marketing defects, improper warning of dangerous side effects of product usage (such as an inadequately tested medical device) can not only make retailers and distributors liable for any injury sustained, but may also impose liability on drug companies as well for putting consumers in danger.
Contact an Experienced Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer
Despite the complexities in filing a personal injury claim against a business, doing so is the only way to ensure that businesses are held accountable for their actions and that you recover compensation for your injuries. Sustaining a personal injury as a result of either premises or product liability can have serious—and potentially permanent—repercussions on your health, your ability to earn a sustainable income, and more.
At Greathouse Trial Law, we understand the impact that an unexpected injury can have on you and your family, and are committed to alleviate your suffering by helping you recover damages from the businesses responsible for your injuries. For more information on filing personal injury claims, or to discuss details of a potential claim against a business, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.