As they reopen after the mandated COVID-19 lockdowns, businesses should consider what precautions to take to reduce the risk of lawsuits filed against them. Generally, customers and visitors to retail stores, professional businesses, and even non-profit businesses can file a claim against the property owners for negligence or for those injuries caused by careless or accidental acts or omissions by business owners.
Claims for premises liability are generally based on a fall or some accident that causes physical harm due to the victim’s body coming into contact with a physical object. Examples include falling to the floor or being struck in the head by a falling object. The COVID-19 virus causes physical damage too – but in a different way than a visible injury. COVID-19 infections are due to breathing or being exposed to the virus. The virus then causes respiratory illness and other complications. In the worst cases, COVID-19 can cause death.
As such, it is important that owners review their insurance coverage to ensure that they are protected from liability if a visitor gets sick. Taking certain preventative measures can also help reduce claims, such as:
- Placing markers on floors to ensure social distancing guidelines
- Providing visitors with access to antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers
- Routinely cleaning and disinfecting all public and private areas of the company
- Providing staff and visitors with facemasks.
Depending upon the circumstances, there may be other measures a business should consider taking. Legislative bodies are considering giving immunity to businesses, but if and when they do, how it will work or protect is not clear. Generally, however, taking reasonable protective measures are acts of good faith that also help reduce the spread of transmission, help keep people safe, and prevent a raft of other problems.
What you do to protect your visitors and customers can also help protect your employees, potentially reducing the risk of workers’ compensation and personal injury claims. Following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Tennessee Department of Health can also help protect your workers. Review their websites and be informed.
Remember, too, that people carry the burden of proving they contracted the illness at a business or work in order to file a claim against the business. This is a good time to speak with your insurance agent.
The reopening process may be more challenging than expected. At the Nashville Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC, we advise small businesses, large companies, charities, and other entities on their risks. For help understanding your business needs during the COVID-19 crisis, call the Law Office of Perry A. Craft PLLC at 615-953-3808 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.