During the current pandemic, many businesses are working hard to stay in business and keep their employees working. Small businesses such as restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and salons are at the whim of local and state governments for closures, directly affecting their income.
The recent series of protests around the US has left a wake of destruction in its path, including buildings and businesses. Business owners are in an even more difficult predicament between a loss of income and the loss of their business and property.
Most people assume that the store will have premises liability insurance to cover incidents like these, but many small businesses do not. In Portland, Oregon, businesses have lost over $23 million since the protesting began.
Although there has been some protesting in West Virginia, the state has not seen the same violence and rioting Oregon and other states have experienced. Gov. Jim Justice previously stated that he will deploy the National Guard should the state begin seeing the same activity.
Stores as well as other businesses have an obligation to keep employees, customers, vendors and other visitors to their premises safe from harm. Trip hazards and other unsafe conditions should be corrected, or at least provide adequate warning for everyone. That care of duty can also include safety measures, such as security and proper lighting in parking lots. This area of the law is called “premises liability.”
A premises liability case will hinge on whether the store or business owner failed to provide adequate safety for individuals in the store, and if they were in place when the protesting took a turn. Was an exit or back escape door locked? Did the owner fail to repair something that resulted in your injury in an eventual fracas, such as carpeting or floor tile? Was there another condition that would not have been dangerous under different circumstances?
Any of these conditions can lead to a possible premises liability case.
Many businesses have a standard business insurance policy that covers losses including vandalism and looting/rioting. These commercial policies can cover incidents such as:
- Broken/smashed doors and windows
- Stolen cash or merchandise
- Vehicles, such as delivery vans or cars
- Business closure/interruption
- Injuries to customers during a demonstration while in a business
“Riot and civil commotion” is a typical clause in many business policies. However, there are exceptions to these, such as damage by police or other governmental agencies to quell a protest, those damages may not be covered, including personal injury.
Does Insurance Cover These Damages?
Most people assume that businesses have insurance that will cover everything. Standard business insurance policies generally do, but it is not always the case.
For instance, a smashed plate-glass window, common in many small businesses, is a separate policy entirely. Without it, a business will have to pay to have the window repaired out of pocket.
If the business owner was aware of a scheduled protest and did nothing to protect the business when it turned violent (such as boarding up windows and doors and locking up valuables), the insurance company could deny the business’ claim.
Business interruption insurance, also called business income insurance, can help with some of the losses after a business has been forced to close. However, there is typically a 72-hour waiting period and lasts for about four weeks.
Individuals injured during a riot or other act of civil unrest may be covered under a standard business policy. Like any type of insurance, coverage differs with each policy. Some policies may not cover customer injuries. Employees would be covered under Worker’s Compensation.
What If The Business Had No Insurance?
Unfortunately, many very small and startup businesses forego business insurance or have been forced to let their insurance lapse during the pandemic. They may be left to pick up the pieces on their own and have no avenue for you to collect damages, even if you file a claim against the owner.
One option is to pursue a claim for damages against the group and negligent individuals responsible for the protesting and ensuing violence. This can be difficult because of the loosely organized nature of the groups, and the identification of the individuals. Contact law enforcement to file a police report against the individuals who provide evidence showing their presence at the scene and their actions. If the state presses charges, anyone who suffered harm by the individual’s actions will be entitled to restitution as a result.
Contact The Love Law Firm For Personal Injury
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, don’t try to take care of your case on your own. You may miss deadlines or other important facts and information that could cost you thousands, or cost you the entire case.
The Love Law Firm is Charleston, West Virginia’s personal injury law firm with extensive experience handling all kinds of premises liability cases. Call us today at 304-344-5683 or contact us online and schedule your free consultation. There’s no fee until we win your case, and our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t pay unless we win.