The first automatic doors were invented almost 70 years ago. However, the concept of automatic doors that many people associate with the ones we use today, were not in existence until the 1990s. Over the last few decades, automatic doors have become so commonplace that they can be found virtually everywhere now. 

For example, you will often see automatic doors in commercial venues, such as airports, shopping malls, hotels, grocery stores, hospitals, and/or office buildings. They are a means of convenience for customers, help businesses conform to disability regulations, and offer a way to keep busy places clean from germs.

On the other hand, sometimes automatic doors can be a nuisance for property owners. For instance, automatic doors routinely malfunction or break down due to the amount of times they are forced to operate on a daily basis. It seems as if they are in constant motion, which causes them to develop mechanical problems. 

Unfortunately, for property owners, this not only means that they need to make instant repairs, but also that if a door malfunctions and injures a customer, they can be held liable for any resulting injuries. In fact, one of the most frequently recurring issues that comes up in personal injury lawsuits are injuries caused by automatic doors. A patron will attempt to walk through the automatic door at the same time that the door malfunctions and receive an injury.

Therefore, if you own a property that has automatic doors or if you have suffered an automatic door injury, you should consult a local personal injury attorney immediately for further advice.

Is a Business Owner Liable for Injuries Caused by Automatic Doors?

In most cases, business owner liability for injuries caused by defective automatic doors is usually based on a claim for negligence or premises liability. For example, a patron who is injured by an automatic door may be able to recover damages from a negligent business owner to reimburse them for their injuries when an automatic door unexpectedly malfunctions. 

Another example of when a business owner may be held liable for injuries caused by defective automatic doors is when multiple persons suffer an injury due to automatic doors striking them while they are shutting close. In this kind of scenario, the injured parties could file a class action lawsuit against the property owner and recover a large settlement award.

An injury may also occur when a set of automatic doors opens too quickly or fails to open at all. For instance, in one case, an airport passenger was able to recover damages for their injuries when they smashed into an automatic glass door that never opened. Despite the fact the doors had been inspected both prior to and after the incident and had been found to be working properly, the passenger was still able to receive damages.

The reason as to why business owners can be held liable for injuries caused by automatic doors is because they owe a certain standard of care to persons who enter their property. This is because the persons who enter their property are categorized as “invitees”, which is a legal status that requires the utmost level of care. 

On the other hand, if the person trespassed on a business owner’s property after hours (like a burglar), then the business owner will most likely not be liable for any resulting injuries that the burglar suffers. A business owner may also not be liable for injuries sustained by invitees who intrude on a portion of the property that they should not enter.

For instance, if an invitee wanders over to a section that is clearly marked “employees only” and has to walk through several locked doors to get to that area, then the business owner may not be liable for injuries they receive from any dangerous conditions they encounter in that portion of the property.

Is a Property Owner Liable for Injuries Caused by Automatic Doors?

In general, it is possible for a property owner to be held liable for injuries caused by automatic doors. After all, property owners have a duty to repair defective conditions on their property that may pose a danger to other persons. However, a property owner’s level of liability will vary based on the type of visitor that the injured party is classified as and on what the status of the injured party was while they were on the property. 

Most states divide visitors into three categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Since property owners are usually not liable for the injuries of trespassers, this article will only focus on invitees and licensees. For now, just bear in mind that there are some exceptions for trespasser liability and that those exceptions will differ by state.

As for the purposes of this article, invitees and licensees can typically be described as follows:

  • Invitees: An invitee refers to an individual who visits the property as a paying customer and/or for the benefit of a property owner. A property owner owes invitees the highest standard of care among the three categories of visitors. As such, a property owner must take all reasonable steps to make the premises safe by immediately repairing unsafe conditions.

    • Property owners also have a duty to warn invitees of any known dangerous conditions on the property, as well as a duty to warn invitees of any unknown dangerous conditions that could have been revealed to a property owner through a proper inspection of the property.
  • Licensees: A licensee is defined as a person who enters the premises for their own benefit, not for business-related or commercial reasons. For instance, a licensee may visit a property because they were invited by the owner as a social guest or friend. In which case, a property owner has a duty to repair any defective conditions that they know or should have known about that are located on the premises.

    • The property owner also has a duty to warn a licensee about any dangerous conditions on the premises that they know of, but might not be so obvious or apparent to a licensee. However, a property owner does not have a duty to inspect their property for dangerous conditions and thus cannot be held liable by a licensee for injuries that resulted from an unknown condition.

As is evident from the above discussion, property owners are mostly held liable when the victim is considered an invitee who enters a commercial or business property and suffers an injury from a malfunctioning automatic door. This is primarily because a commercial property owner has a duty to inspect their premises for invitees. 

Accordingly, a commercial property owner should either know or should have known that an automatic door is defective and could possibly injure an invitee if they uphold their duty to inspect their property.

Should I Consult an Attorney If I Have Been Injured by an Automatic Door?

If you have been injured by an automatic door, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local personal injury attorney for further legal guidance. An experienced personal injury attorney can assess the facts of your situation and determine whether you have a viable claim. If you do, your attorney can discuss your options for legal recourse and can provide advice regarding the remedies for each of those options.

Your attorney can also explain the relevant laws in your state and can help you to protect your rights. Additionally, if you need to go to court to resolve an automatic door issue, your attorney will be able to provide legal representation as well.