As we slowly start to reopen the economy, whether you are a landowner, building owner, business owner, or tenant, you have some real issues to consider before you reopen your doors. While your goal is to get your business back on its feet and have your employees return, there are three considerations to address before taking the big plunge to reopening your business during the Coronavirus pandemic.
In my latest webinar, I discussed the following Three Pillars are before you reopen your business:
- Make sure that you follow the applicable guidelines and rules for your particular industry:
- Review your insurance policies to make sure that you have adequate insurance if someone attempts to sue you for contacting the coronavirus; and,
- Procure appropriate asset protection planning in the event insurance does not cover all your liability.
During the webinar, in order to explain potential issues that may arise in the workplace, we discussed other situations to exemplify risk. For instance, when one goes skiing, one agrees to assume the risk of what is effectively an inherently dangerous sport. When you buy your lift ticket, typically the back of the ticket has all these waivers of liability and an agreement that you assume the risk of skiing. This is a risk that you know of and you are able to measure your enjoyment of the sport with potential injuries that may occur from the sport.
Unfortunately, we never thought that walking into a restaurant, a supermarket, an office, or nail salon could require you to assume the potential medical risks that we currently face. Just months ago, there was no perceived inherent risk of simply walking into a store. While some may say sheltering in place is one way to avoid the Coronavirus, we simply do not know with 100% certainty how to fully avoid the risk of contracting the disease once we enter businesses, retail stores, or restaurants.
While we all can agree that the world has changed due to this pandemic, there are those among us that will think twice before entering retail or business spaces due to community spread. This potential risk may not necessarily be born by the property owner, proprietor, or business tenant especially if each strictly adheres to the CDC and OSHA guidelines. As a result, the property owner, proprietor, or business tenant may require you to sign a release of liability, or in the alternative, there may be signs posted in prevalent locations within the store, business, or restaurant indicating that you are assuming the risk of contacting COVID-19.
The property owner, proprietor, or business owner will still have obligations to follow the CDC and other applicable guidelines required in order to keep people safe. Even doing so, one’s liability may be somewhat reduced, but not necessarily ever eliminated. There is the possibility that one of your workers or customers unfortunately spreads the disease. Thus, it is imperative that the review of your insurance policies is evaluated carefully before you open, especially those provisions concerning protection from liability should someone become sick on your premises. While most liability insurance policies do not exempt someone getting sick from your business premises, insurance policies are constantly re-written to protect insurance companies and will carve out certain known risks going forward.
When you find that your insurance policy does not cover you, you will be in a similar situation many doctors who do not have insurance and post such signs in their waiting rooms notifying their clients. Should this be the case, you may wish to make sure that you have proper asset protection planning to protect you.
Again, we are living in an ever-evolving world due to this pandemic. We must be careful until such time as a vaccine is found and an effective treatment is accomplished. While our economy and our businesses are at risk, there are a myriad of issues that have emerged as a result of the Coronavirus. As you decide to reopen your business, you must make sure that you have competent legal counsel that is willing to advise you on the legal ramifications of opening, making sure that you are fully compliant with the necessary guidelines and that you have appropriate insurance in the event that something goes wrong.
Finally, you must make sure that your assets are titled and protected in such a way to avoid a cataclysmic event for you and your family. Our team at Oppenheim Law are here to assist you in reviewing these Three Pillars, and in helping you with your overall business needs.
Be safe and well,
From the Trenches
2500 Weston Rd #404
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33331