USE WHAT CAME IN THE BOX
Manufacturers pack fasteners with their products that they have tested for use with their products. It may take longer to use manufacturer provided screws, but not doing so may create a hazard. Perhaps the most common field substitution is the use of the drywall screw. Its long pitch and deep cutting thread tempts the installer to use them everywhere to save time. This writer has seen far too many incidents where the improper fasteners were the direct cause of an accident when a door closer body became dislodged and struck a pedestrian.
Building codes require specific door closer fasteners for fire labeled doors. A plaintiff's expert will spot standard screws where thru bolts were appropriate. The plaintiff's attorney will claim the use of incorrect fasteners was a sign of poor workmanship even if the screws were not directly involved in the accident.
DO NOT MODIFY
Locksmiths work with complex mechanisms daily. They have experience, knowledge of mechanics, and can create unique field modifications. A product modification may be ingenious and solve a difficult field application problem, however field modifications virtually eliminate any responsibility on the part of others involved in an incident. If standard product won't work on a particular application, the installer should document field measurements and request a special template from the manufacturer. Otherwise he or she may find them selves as “the lone defendant.”
In an effort to develop new customers, many service providers apply stickers to door closers and operators with their company name and phone number. Often such stickers are applied randomly, regardless of who installed or is maintaining the products. While this may be an effective marketing technique, this writer has seen businesses that never serviced the product dragged into a personal injury lawsuit simply because their sticker was on the device involved. Companies who indulge in this practice need to be aware that they are increasing exposure to litigation.
The process of resolving a personal injury lawsuit may require you to give a deposition, even if you were not personally named in the suit. A deposition is similar to trial, where you give your testimony under oath. The attorney assisting you should spend a few hours preparing you for a deposition. He or she should not coach you on what to say, but should provide advice on how to say it.
Appearances are important when giving a deposition. Dress conservatively and maintain an attitude of professionalism. Do not make jokes or become argumentative during the course of a deposition. It will only damage the defendant's case.
Answers should be brief and truthful and you should not guess at an answer. If you don't know the answer, say so. An incorrect answer discredits testimony. Opposing attorneys may try to “rattle” you in an attempt to get answers that are detrimental to the defense. The classic example is, “When did you stop beating your wife?” Listen to each question carefully, think about your answer, and take a deep breath before you respond.
You are entitled to ask for a break and confer with your attorney. Such conferences are not privileged and the opposition is entitled to ask what was discussed.
You have the right to review the deposition transcript and correct obvious errors. However, if you significantly change your answers, it will discredit your testimony.
The same rules apply should the case go to trial, which is unlikely. Over 90 percent of personal injury lawsuits result in a settlement before trial begins.
Personal injury lawsuits are expensive, time consuming, and can cause disruption and financial stress a defendant. The best way to avoid being sued is to create a safe building environment through a documented inspection and maintenance plan. Proper licensing, certification and insurance are essential. Knowledge of local building codes and standards with common good practice will provide a strong preemptive defense against the personal injury lawsuit.
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