No trespassing. Wet floor. Beware of dog. These are just a few warning signs posted on properties that just about everyone has seen at least once in their lives.
Warning signs like these are designed to both protect people from danger and to protect property owners and managers from liability if people do get hurt. But do they actually protect property owners and managers from liability or hold up in court if victims file lawsuits?
The answer is yes, but how much liability and legal protection they provide to property owners and managers depends on a few factors.
The Visibility of the Sign Plays a Big Part
For signs to be legally valid, they must be easily seen and prominently displayed in or near the area where the danger is located. That means that a “wet floor” sign located at the front of a long aisle where liquid has accumulated may not hold up legally if the liquid is located far from the sign itself.
Or, in the case of a dog on a property, a “Beware of Dog” sign should be posted at commonly used entrances. For example, a fenced-in yard that contains a dog that could potentially bite someone should have a prominently displayed sign that indicates a dog is present. If the sign is posted elsewhere or is obscured by foliage, it can be difficult for the property owner to use it to deny liability if an attack occurs.
If the Sign is Prominent and Visible, Are Property Owners Exempt from Liability?
No, but it can provide some degree of protection for them. Premises liability cases are complex, and while warning signs can shift some degree of responsibility over to victims, they don’t absolve property owners from all liability.
For example, a warning sign that says “Watch Your Step” may help people notice a large drop-off or gap in a doorway or between platforms and thus avoid injury. But if the drop-off or gap is significant and poses a risk to people even if they are aware of it, the property owner can still be held liable for injuries for not taking steps to reduce risks.
Another example includes signs in languages that aren’t readable to the people who are most likely to encounter them. A non-standard wet floor sign in English that’s used in a store or public place where most visitors are Spanish-speaking could put them at risk and is unlikely to hold up for the defense in an injury claim or civil trial.
Regardless of Signs, Property Owners May Face Liability When Hazards Go Unaddressed
In many cases, warning signs should only be used as temporary measures to protect guests and the public when property owners become aware of hazards but haven’t been able to address them yet. For example, a warning sign on a staircase warning of a broken stair or loose handrail should be a temporary measure.
When property owners neglect to make repairs to known hazards for a long period, they can be held liable for injuries regardless of signage. As property owners, they have a duty of care to the people who visit their properties, and warning signs don’t satisfy that requirement. They must take the appropriate steps to address hazards, whether it’s as simple as mopping up spills or utilizing the help of contractors and architects.
Warning Sign or Not, Contact Us After an Injury on Someone Else’s Property
Warning signs are important and helpful to both property owners and guests. They can significantly reduce the risk of injury when hazardous conditions are present, especially when property owners have just been made aware of them and don’t have the time or resources to address them just yet. However, they aren’t legal shields that property owners can hide behind when injuries occur.
Property owners must always do everything in their power to keep their properties safe for the people who visit them, and when they fail to do so, they can and should be held liable. If you or someone you love was injured on another person’s or company’s property, we want to hear from you. Our Oklahoma slip and fall accident lawyers know what it takes to help victims like you get maximum compensation.
Contact the legal team at Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation.