One in every four adults in the United States lives with a disability. Individuals with physical disabilities can sometimes encounter challenges maneuvering safely in public spaces. The Americans with Disability Act mandates that public spaces provide accommodations to disabled guests. However, loopholes exist that can allow some businesses and other public spaces to sidestep the law. ADA violations may not be enough to prove negligence on their own.
What recourse do disabled persons have when they suffer injuries because businesses and other public spaces do not meet ADA compliance? A premises liability lawsuit may be the answer in most cases.
What is premises liability?
Premises liability laws protect individuals from unsafe or defective conditions on someone else’s property. For instance, if a person trips and falls on a cracked sidewalk in front of a business and breaks their leg, the business owners can be liable for their injuries. Property owners have a legal obligation to fix or provide notice of dangers or hazards that can lead to injury. Failure to do so opens them up to personal injury lawsuits from injured parties.
Premises liability cases require the injured party to prove the property owner was negligent in their duty of care to maintain their property. The only time premise liability laws do not apply in New Mexico is when someone is trespassing on another person’s property.
ADA lawsuit vs. premises liability lawsuit
ADA lawsuits and premises liability lawsuits provide different outcomes. Disabled persons who do not suffer injuries but wish to force a business to become ADA compliant should file an ADA lawsuit. Most ADA lawsuits do not include settlements or rulings that provide the complainant with financial compensation. The usual outcome involves the business or public space ordered to become ADA compliant.
Premises liability lawsuits work best for individuals injured by a business’s lack of ADA compliance who seek fair compensation for their injuries. ADA compliance issues like damaged flooring, lack of handrails in the bathroom, and entrances without ramps all can lead to serious injuries of disabled patrons. However, victims who file premises liability claims should not consider their cases a slam dunk. Business owners must be aware of the hazard the ADA violation posed to be liable for injuries. Hiring an attorney skilled in premises liability law can help improve your chances of success.
Ramps and curbs: the source of most ADA violations
Failing to install and maintain ADA compliant sidewalks and curbs gets a lot of businesses in legal hot water. Broken sidewalks, crumbling stairs, and steep curbs can cause injuries to mobile persons. They also can spell disaster for disabled individuals trying to access a business or other public accommodation.
ADA Accessibility Standards spell out where ramps and curbs must be installed to meet ADA compliance. The standards include measurements for each component of the curb or ramp.
Ramps and Curb Ramps
Ramps and curb ramps are required along accessible routes with changes in level greater than half an inch. The ADA permits platform lifts and elevators to be used alternatively. Accessible routes with slopes steeper than 5 percent must follow the same guidelines for ramps.
Slope and Cross Slope
Providing the least possible slope offers the best usability for both disabled and non-disabled users, according to the U.S. Access Board. Slope is the proportion of vertical rise to horizontal length. The recommended ratio is 1:12, or 8.33 percent.
There must be a clear width of 36 inches minimum between the handrails on a ramp. Width requirements accommodate the average size of a wheelchair, which is between 30 and 32 inches. Individual health and safety codes may dictate clear width that extends beyond the minimum.
Run height is limited to 30 inches maximum, but ramps may have as many runs as needed. Longer ramps with numerous runs can be difficult for people using manual wheelchairs and should be avoided if possible.
Every run must have level landings at the bottom and top. The ADA does not permit changes in level greater than 1:48 for landings. They also must be designed in such a way that water does not accumulate there, which can pose significant hazards to people using wheelchairs.
The standards also cover required specifications for:
- Doorways at landings.
- Edge protection.
- Wet conditions.
Property owners should review and ensure compliance to avoid becoming liable for serious injuries by disabled visitors.
Using premises liability to pursue ADA violations
When property owners fail to meet required obligations for equal access, disabled persons can and do end up with serious injuries. Cameron & Russell recently recovered $600,000 as part of a premises liability lawsuit. Our client in the case suffered horrific injuries when he fell out of his wheelchair because a walkway was blocked by a tractor-trailer. This is just one example of how we can help recover damages for disabled persons injured because of a property owner’s negligence. Call 505-218-7844 or request an appointment online to schedule your free case consultation.