California is one of the most ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant states in the country. However, it also generates a large number of ADA-enforcement lawsuits. If you own a business, you should be aware that if your commercial space (whether owned or rented) does not meet all legal requirements for accessibility by disabled people, your business may be sued.
Most disability access lawsuits are brought over a lack of handicapped parking, inaccessible restrooms, and problems with entryways. Common targets are stores, motels, restaurants, and office buildings. If a court finds that your business violated disability access laws, your business will be required to pay up to three times the amount of the handicapped person’s losses, with a minimum of $4,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs, even if the violation is extremely minor. It does not matter if you did not even know about the violation, or if you knew about it but could not afford the building changes. Your business can still be required to pay and to fix the violation.
The California laws on physical access implement the federal ADA regulations, and are located in Title 24 of California Building Standards Code. This building code section has strict and detailed requirements for disability access to commercial space. Some typical examples of disability access code violations are:
• One of your thresholds is more than 1/4-inch high (1/2-inch if beveled);
• A disabled access ramp has a slope of greater than five degrees;
• Your doors require more than five pounds of pressure to open;
• There aren’t 60 inches of clearance in your bathroom for a wheelchair to navigate;
• Your welcome mat is too soft or too thick.
These are only a few of the violations that may subject your business to a disability-access violations lawsuit. A more complete list may be found in downloadable form on the California Department of General Services website at http://www.dgs.ca.gov/dsa/Programs/progAccess/accessmanual.aspx
The best way for your business to avoid being sued is to have your commercial space surveyed, and then take the necessary steps to fix any ADA problems. California has a “Certified Access Specialist” program, and if you hire a certified access specialist and follow their recommendations, you can receive business tax deductions for the disability-compliance upgrades. If you are still sued for ADA violations in state court at a later time, you gain the legal right to delay the lawsuit while you attempt to settle it in mediation. This may save you from going through the time and expense of a trial.
If you own a business and are considering moving to a new location, or if you want to find out if your existing space needs upgrading to meet the requirements of the disability access laws, San Diego Law Firm’s real estate lawyers are standing by to assist you. We have years of experience in helping businesses comply with the ADA, and defending businesses sued for violating the ADA. Please call today at (619) 794-0243 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to helping you.