How to Warn for Foreseeable Hazards

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Avoid Liability by Warning for Foreseeable Hazards

Warnings are trickery legal devices. Failure to warn about a dangerous or hazardous product or situation can lead to liability if an injury results. Even if there is a warning, it must adequately cover the potential risks. A good warning will protect the business from warning defect liability. Here are three tips for writing a warning:

1) Place the Warning in a Position Where It Is Clearly Visible

This might sound like a no-brainer, but a warning which cannot be seen or read is not a warning at all. "No Trespassing" signs should not have trees or storage cabinets in front of them. "Wet Floor" signs won’t prevent slip and fall suits if they are behind bathroom doors or knocked over by little children. If there are certain dangers to certain people, consider handing written warnings to the person(s) directly. For example, if a dentist wishes to warn a patient about over dosage on painkillers, the dentist should give the patient a written notice. Always leave a paper trail.

2) Be as Specific as Possible

Defendants are required to warn of foreseeable hazards which could harm others. As such, the warning should be specific enough to give indication of nature and extent of the danger involved. Construction sites should not merely post "Danger" signs, but should also warn that there may be falling objects. Vending machines should clearly state that a person may be crushed to death if they try to shake the machine. The best way to discourage improper use is to be as specific as possible, so be graphic about the risks.

3) Understand the Warning’s Audience

Some states use the sophisticated user doctrine. A carpenter who uses a nail gun is a different user than a teenager. The carpenter’s knowledge would tell him or her how to operate the nail gun’s safety catch. The carpenter doesn’t need to be told what happens if the catch is turned off inappropriately (emergency room is usually what happens). However, the carpenter does have a duty to warn the teenager or other uninformed individual’s about the nail gun’s danger if the carpenter allows others to use it. Although the sophisticated duty doctrine relieves certain businesses of liability, it places the same responsibility on others.

Seeking Legal Help

If there is a something dangerous or a hazardous on your property or under your control, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can help you navigate all potential legal issues involved with failure to warn liability.

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Last Modified: 07-09-2014 02:39 PM PDT

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