a yellow, triangular sign reading "Accident" on the road

I see a lot of prospective clients who get injured on the grounds of big box stores, parking lots, or other commercial properties. The #1 cause of injury is slips (or trips) and falls. Many people think these types of cases are frivolous because of this innocent-sounding name. But some of the nastiest – most life-changing – injuries I have seen in my career have come from falls: broken leg, broke pelvis, spinal cord injury, brain bleeds, etc. The question is: when is the business responsible?

The law in Ohio is very favorable to business owners. We can understand why: a business cannot know about or protect its customers from every condition on the property. If it were required to, the cost of doing business might be so high that it would discourage business investment in our communities. But … a business must act reasonably.

The law says: a business has a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn of hidden defects. That means if the pothole you tripped in is 3-feet by 3-feet by 3-feet its open and obvious and not hidden. A business does not have to warn you about “open and obvious” hazards.

You typically will have to show the business had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition – and did not correct it. Actual knowledge means the business, through its employees, knew about it – i.e. a custodian spilled his mop bucket and did not clean it up. Constructive knowledge generally means it should have known about it – i.e. a customer spilled the custodian’s bucket and the spill sat in an aisle for 4 hours.

Businesses have many other defenses to “premises liability.” I make sure to discuss all of the possible defenses with my clients.

Here is a piece of advice. Even if the business is not responsible for your injury, you may still have options. One easy option is to make a claim through the business’s medical payments coverage. Many insurance policies will contain medical payments coverage that will pay medical bills for someone injured at the business – regardless of who is at fault.

If you were injured at a business location, let’s talk about your case. I go after insurance policies, not business owners.