California – one of the most ADA compliant states in the nation – is also the most ADA litigious. Under California law, any violation of the ADA is considered a civil rights violation and subject to a minimum statutory penalty of $4,000, plus attorney’s fees.
Any disabled or handicap person who encounters a building condition that does not meet the accessibility requirements of the ADA or the California Building Code (CBC) is entitled to file a lawsuit and receive a minimum of $4,000 in statutory damages plus attorney’s fees.
While the ADA laws were enacted to protect the rights of the disabled, they have also led to an expensive flood of ADA lawsuits by individuals intent on taking advantage of the system.
It is estimated that over 20,000 ADA lawsuits have been filed in California courts since enactment of the ADA in 1992, and conservative estimates indicate that this litigation costs California businesses over $20 million each year.
ADA lawsuits are difficult to defend and typically result in minimum payouts of $4,000 – $6,000, even if the lawsuit is uncontested. Fortunately, there is now an effective defense against such lawsuits.
Newly Available Protections for Handicapped
Recent California legislation provides essential protections for business and property owners from unwarranted ADA lawsuits.
Senate Bill 1608 enables business and property owners to have their facilities inspected for access compliance by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp).
A CASp inspection will:
- Protect against unwarranted ADA lawsuits
- Insure compliance with federal and state accessibility requirements
- Identify “readily achievable” issues requiring correction
- Provide reasonable time frames to make required corrections
- Insure that your business is accessible to all potential customers, regardless of disability
Even if a building is not fully accessible, a CASp inspection provides a business owner with immediate protection by identifying “readily achievable” issues for correction and establishing an intent to address required accessibility issues.
Tax credits and deductions are available to help pay for inspection and construction costs. A tax credit of up to $5,000 is available for small businesses that incur expenses related to accessibility improvements.
A tax deduction of up to $15,000 per year is also available to all businesses for qualified accessibility expenses that are normally capitalized.
Check with your tax advisor regarding the applicability of these credits and deductions.
Protect yourself, your property and your pocketbook
The best protection against expensive and time consuming ADA lawsuits is to have your business or property inspected for its handicapped access, as soon as possible, for access compliance by a Certified Access Specialist (CASp).