What is a Drive-By Lawsuit & How Can I Avoid One?

What is a Drive-By Lawsuit & How Can I Avoid One?

26 April 2022 By Admin

There has been an unfortunate increase in so-called ‘Drive-by’ ADA lawsuits in the past couple of years. These are lawsuits focus mostly on small businesses that appear to be violating the accessibility guidelines set out by the Americans with Disabilities Act, better known as the ADA. On the surface, this may seem fair; after all, if a business is not accessible, then it is breaking the law and preventing people with disabilities from being able to access the services. However, when we dig a little deeper, we find a nefarious twist to these lawsuits. They have earned the name ‘drive-by’ because the plaintiff will usually drive around town specifically looking for ADA violations to complain about without ever intending or attempting to visit the business as a customer. Some will even go so far as to file multiple lawsuits in a single day. Why? Well, mainly because California’s Unruh Act makes ADA violations a civil rights matter, and each violation can result in the plaintiff being awarded a minimum of $4000 in compensation. It is a sticky situation where these lawsuits are technically justified if the ADA violations do exist, but at the same time, this is not the spirit in which the ADA was intended to be used. Some of the most prolific drive-by plaintiffs in the state have filed hundreds of lawsuits claiming a small fortune in damages.

So, what can your small business do to avoid a drive-by ADA lawsuit? There is a straightforward answer here. The best, and probably the only, defense is to be ADA compliant. A business owner can achieve this more easily than you might think with the help of an experienced ADA Concrete Contractor.

Parking Lots Are a Hot Spot For Drive-By Lawsuits

One area, in particular, that is often cited in these drive-by ADA lawsuits is a business’ parking lot. This is the easiest violation for a plaintiff to see while driving around town. They can check out your accessible parking, striping, and signage without even having to exit their vehicle! Parking lots are one of the most common violations anyway, as some business owners don’t realize that the requirements go beyond just providing an accessible space. An experienced ADA concrete contractor can advise you of all of the necessary elements of an ADA compliant parking lot, including accessible spaces, access aisles, curb cuts, truncated domes, appropriate striping, accessible routes, and ADA compliant signage. It is also important that your parking lot is adequately maintained even after making it ADA compliant. Signs get stolen or vandalized, and paintwork or striping gets worn away over time. Maybe you did take steps to ensure you had accessible parking for your business when you first opened, but how confident are you that it has remained so? Working with an ADA concrete contractor can give you a better idea of what steps you might need to take to achieve and maintain ADA compliance.

Beyond the Parking Lot

Of course, parking lots may be the most visible violation for a drive-by plaintiff to spot, but they are certainly not the only ones. It is important to work on all aspects of accessibility from street level to your entrance. Some of the other ADA violations that are commonly picked up on in this type of lawsuit include:

  • Stairs that do not have the required handrails, risers, or treads in place.
  • Missing or non-compliant signage for accessible parking, routes, and entrances.
  • Walkways or ramps that do not meet the requirements for the slope, width, surface, landing, guardrails, or handrails.
  • Doorways that are not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or which have non-compliant hardware.

There are also additional considerations regarding interior accessibility, such as restrooms, counter heights, space between display racks, etc. However, these are rarely mentioned in drive-by ADA lawsuits since the plaintiff would have to access the business to see these violations. They will almost always opt for the easy-to-spot exterior issues, which is why you need an ADA concrete contractor to help bring your exterior areas up to compliance and avoid a malicious lawsuit.

As unwelcome as these drive-by lawsuits are, the fact remains that ADA compliance is a legal requirement, and it is something your business needs to address sooner rather than later. Even if you do not face a drive-by lawsuit, your business remains vulnerable to more legitimate lawsuits from real customers and federal lawsuits. It’s not really a matter of ‘if’ your business will face an ADA lawsuit, but when. It is much more cost-effective to invest in removing architectural barriers to accessibility than it is to go through a potentially costly lawsuit. If you want to get a head start on achieving ADA compliance get in contact with an experienced ADA concrete contractor today and start working on a plan as soon as possible.

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Why Wait to be "Forced" into ADA Compliance. If you are a public business or public property owner, save money, lawsuits, time and headaches by being prepared and avoiding it all in the first place. It’s time to call in the ADA pros. Use Protrk, an ADA construction expert, to Get it Done Right Prior to Forced Compliance. 

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