Personal injury claims in South Carolina are filed against businesses all the time. In fact, owners generally go into business with the assumption that they will face a lawsuit at some point. With this in mind, they purchase insurance to protect themselves, and will usually make every effort to minimize their liability in case an injury should occur. They do this by warning of wet floors with signs, by removing ice and spills before they can cause harm, by maintaining their buildings, and by keeping their aisles and other common areas as clean as they can.
Yet if you are the customer of a business and you end up with an accidental injury, there’s a chance that the company or one of their employees may be liable, allowing you to pursue a personal injury claim against the business. The most common of such injuries involve slip and fall accidents.
What You Must Prove in a Business Personal Injury Claim
You will have to prove three key points to establish negligence in a personal injury claim against a business in South Carolina. You must verify that a duty of care was owed to you, meaning that the business was obligated to provide a safe and hazard-free environment to prevent injuries.
You must ascertain that the duty of care was breached or violated, meaning that the business failed to maintain such a safe environment.
You must then prove that this violation is what caused your accident, and that is what caused your injuries and damages.
You do not have to prove that the business owners were responsible for your personal injury in South Carolina, only that they or one of their employees meets these three criteria.
Proving That a Business Owed a Duty of Care to Customers
It is typically easy to prove that someone owes you a duty of care in a personal injury claim. With very few exceptions, anyone who owns property and permits you to be on that property, as a business would welcome customers, owes you a duty of care. Even so, this does not mean that the business must guarantee your safety. They do not have to maintain their property to a degree of absolute perfection. Rather, they must take reasonable measures to keep the property and their customers safe.
The rules and standards of care are different, depending on industry and where you live. The general standards of businesses include having procedures to inspect and maintain the property to minimize hazards, routine cleaning and addressing spills, placing warning signs wherever a floor has been mopped or wherever there has been a spill, using doorway mats to minimize the likelihood of slips, and making repairs as necessary to the building and walkways.
Proving That a Business Breached Their of Duty of Care to Customers
With the above standards in mind, a breach of duty of care to customers on the part of a business would be defined as any neglect of the given standards of care. The given breach must correspond to a specific standard or duty of care. If the business does not have inspection and maintenance procedures, then this may be a breach of the that duty of care. If the business does not conduct routine cleaning or address spills, then this may be a breach of that duty of care. If a business does not use warning signs where floors are wet, then this may be a breach of that duty of care. For this reason, you have to prove that there was a specific standard in the duty of care owed to you and that the business did not uphold this standard, thus, breaching their duty of care.
Proving That a Breach of a Business’ Duty of Care Caused Injuries
In some cases, you may experience an accident because a business breached their duty of care by failing to uphold a reasonable standard of care, but you won’t actually be injured. You might slip and fall on a wet floor that has no warning sign, but not sustain injuries. If this is the case, then you don’t have a valid personal injury claim against the business. Beyond proving that a duty of care was owed and that the duty of care was breached, you have to prove a causal link between this breach of duty of care and the resulting injuries.
Further, you have to prove that it was, in fact, their breach of duty that caused your injuries and not a mistake on your part. There may have been a slippery floor, without warning signs posted, but if you fell because the heel on your shoe broke, there is no causal link between the business’ negligence and your injury. Rather, your injury was caused by your broken shoe.
If you are injured by the business’s negligence, then you may suffer and recover compensation for different forms of harm or damages. These can include your medical care expenses, your lost wages from time off work, your lost future earning potential for disability, your pain and suffering, your lost enjoyment of life, and more.
A Business is Liable in Personal Injury Cases that Result From Employee Negligence
In most cases, the owner of a business will not be the one who failed to do what they were supposed to do. Rather, it will be an employee who was supposed to maintain the property, clean the spill, put up warning signs, etc. However, the employee represents their employer, so the employer may still be liable when their employee’s negligence causes an injury. In some cases, you may have a claim against the employee, also.
For the business to be liable, the employee must have made their mistake while engaged in employment related tasks, or while ‘on the clock.’ If the employee was off the clock, leaving the parking lot of the business, for example, and he or she caused an accident, then the employer is not liable. If the employee was on the clock, perhaps driving a delivery vehicle in the parking lot, and he or she caused an accident, then the employer usually is liable.
Learn More About Personal Injury Claims Against Businesses
For more information about personal injury claims against businesses and to find out if you have a valid claim, as well as what that claim might be worth, contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm. We are happy to provide a free consultation and answer all of your questions.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.