How do CASp inspections benefit Californians?
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These days, one of the of the more threatening lawsuits that could hit businesses at any moment is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violation. And if you live in the State of California, this is an even more imminent risk.
According to Seyfarth Shaw, a law firm that tallies the numbers of ADA lawsuits, California consistently leads in the charts, maintaining a wide difference over other states like New York and Florida since they started plotting the figures. This is unsurprising since California is home to Silicon Valley and Hollywood and is one of the most ideal states in which to do business. But for that very reason, there is a more weighty demand for businesses to take responsibility and to do their due diligence than for any other state in America.
In California, there is a significant piece of legislation that further makes it a pressing need to ensure nondiscrimination for whatever basis.
The Unruh Act is a civil rights law passed in 1959 making it at least thirty years older than the ADA. Under this law, it is illegal to discriminate based on color, religion, age, and more. Due to the signing of the ADA in 1990, it was updated in 1992 to cover “violation(s) of the right of any individual under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” In California, needless to say, noncompliance with the ADA equates to noncompliance with the Unruh Act and this awards a minimum of $4,000 to any plaintiff who would file a disability access lawsuit in the state.
Although there is no 100% safeguard to avoid ADA litigation, there is one way you can pursue to prevent unnecessary lawsuits.
Because the Unruh Act awards a minimum of $4000 in statutory damages to people who make claims covered by the ADA, there was a noted rise in property violations especially in the state of California. As in any situation where someone stands to profit, ADA legislation is prone to abuse. Crafty individuals exploited the ADA and Unruh Acts so much that the law had to step in to help businesses.
In 2008, Senate Bill No. 1608 (SB 1608) added a protection for businesses so that they can shield themselves from cunning citizens who are only after earning money from claims. This reform in disability legislation allows a business to get certified by government-licensed professionals if it meets applicable standards set by the ADA.
A Certified Access Specialist (CASp) is an expert defined in SB 1608 who has passed an examination administered by the Division of State Architect and has the technical know-how for construction-related accessibility, coming from an architecture, engineering, or other field-related background. These professionals are licensed to conduct what is known as a CASp inspection on public accommodation and commercial property to check for their disability access status. The CASp inspection report they furnish has benefits for businesses in the event of a construction-related accessibility claim filed in court.
While the cost of a CASp inspection might seem unnecessary for some business owners, it is nothing compared to the costs of an ADA lawsuit filed against those who have yet to hire a CASp at this point. A CASp inspection is entirely voluntary and can start at $800 for a small business, or much higher depending on commercial property size. A lawsuit, on the other hand, is unwanted and costs upwards of $4000 for each violation. Below, we will enumerate some of the benefits of acquiring this detailed report for your California site that property owners may want to look into.
There is no hard and fast rule to avoid an ADA lawsuit. But you can certainly bring down the weight of expenses on your business by holding this coveted certification. It is important to note, however, that these benefits work best if your property is inspected by a CASp before the filing of a claim. As such, it is best to obtain this CASp certification before you actually open your site for business.
In the event that you are sued for an alleged violation, the existence of a prior CASp inspection report on your facility will grant you what is called a “qualified defendant” status in the lawsuit. As a qualified defendant, you are entitled to a court stay of legal proceedings as well as an early evaluation conference. Basically, as someone who has previously displayed good faith and effort to comply with the laws, the owner is awarded the chance to correct the oversight at his or her facility.
One of the major expenses of a lawsuit is the fee paid to the attorney on top of fines that will be paid to the complainant. A qualified defendant status will provide you with a 60-day stay of court which means that you might not even have to hire your own lawyer as you settle the matter raised in the complaint.
Another benefit as a qualified defendant is the early evaluation conference (EEC) that will be overseen by an authority. An EEC is a civil dialogue between the two parties where they can determine if they can close the case via a settlement. This may eventually be more amenable to a business owner compared to the actual penalties to be concluded by the court.
In a lot of cases where ADA lawsuits are filed, plaintiffs are driven by monetary gain. A settlement might be more satisfactory to them than pursuing time-consuming litigation. On the other hand, when individuals with disabilities are driven to sue public accommodations, all they really want is appropriate action and change to take place. In which case, with an EEC you provide them with a listening ear to be heard and you are given the chance to improve your services. Either way, getting your property CASp-inspected is a good investment to make.
In an ideal world, every place of public accommodation will undergo an inspection by someone from the CASp program. In reality, not all public accommodations will get this type of inspection.
Under California laws, it is a legal requirement for property owners to inform their tenants if their site has undergone CASp inspection. While the ADA’s focus is on individuals with disabilities, it also works to a business’ advantage to be ADA compliant because this opens them to every customer regardless of ability. When your site obtains certification, this means that you will be free to make this information known to prospective clients. You will not only be adhering to the laws, you will also be promoting yourself.
At the end of the day, by being ADA compliant, you are only playing your part as a responsible citizen. Never getting served with a lawsuit is just the icing on the cake. If you need help with construction related accessibility standards or help with CASp contact information, you can contact us! We have experts at the ready to supply you with this service. You just put your best foot forward and we will take care of the rest!