What is a disability access lawsuit?
State and federal laws give people with disabilities the right to file lawsuits to enforce the disability access standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. California law permits people with disabilities to sue for damages resulting from experiences of access barrier discrimination and sets a statutory minimum damage that applies regardless of actual damages or physical injuries. Plaintiffs in disability access lawsuits usually seek to recover statutory damages and removal of access barriers. The facts of every case are different and there is no way to predict the outcome or guaranty a particular result.
What is Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act focuses on public accommodations and commercial facilities, including retail and professional business locations that are open to the general public. All new construction and modifications to these facilities must be accessible to people with disabilities. For facilities whose construction predated the enactment of the ADA, barriers must be removed if it is readily achievable to do so, which means that the removal of barriers is easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. Public accommodations include such facilities as hotels, restaurants, bars, theaters, grocery stores, hardware stores, dry-cleaners, banks, professional offices of health care providers, lawyers and accountants, hospitals, private bus or train stations, museums, libraries, zoos, amusement parks, places of education, day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses, shopping centers, office complexes, apartment rental offices and strip malls, among others.
What is the Unruh Civil Rights Act?
The Unruh Civil Rights Act is a civil rights statute in California that gives private individuals the right to file lawsuits for damages and remedies, including court ordered removal of disability access barriers and installation of accessible features. The Unruh Act provides that all persons in California are free and equal and that regardless of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status or sexual orientation, are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges and services of every kind. The primary purpose of the Unruh Act is to compel recognition of the equality of all people in the right to a particular service offered by an entity or organization covered by the Act. The Unruh Act prohibits all arbitrary discrimination by business establishments and all forms of unequal treatment of patrons.
How do I know if I am legally disabled?
Being legally disabled under California law means that you have a limitation of a major life activity. A disorder or condition limits a major life activity if it makes the achievement of the activity difficult. Major life activities are broadly construed to include physical, mental and social activities and working. You should consult with an attorney if you want clarification on whether or not you are disabled under California law.
What kind of damages are available in a disability access lawsuit?
In the absence of actual damages or physical injuries, California law permits people with disabilities to recover statutory minimum damages that range from one thousand to four thousand dollars, depending on the circumstances of the case. Recent legislation in California allows defendants to reduce their exposure to damages by taking timely action to improve accessibility. Statutory damages are not applicable in all cases. We can't predict or guaranty the value of a disability access lawsuit.
As a disabled person how would I know if I have been discriminated against?
People with mobility disabilities experience discrimination if a violation of one or more construction-related accessibility standards denied them full and equal access to a place of public accommodation on a particular occasion. A person is denied access if they personally encounter an access violation on a particular occasion or if they are deterred from accessing a place on a particular occasion. A violation personally encountered will constitute discrimination if a disabled person experiences difficulty, discomfort, or embarrassment because of the violation. People with disabilities can argue that they were deterred from accessing a place of public accommodation on a particular occasion if they had actual knowledge of violations that prevented or reasonably dissuaded them from accessing a place that they intended to use and if the violation would have actually denied them full and equal access if they had been able to access it.
What kinds of barriers do people complain about in disability access lawsuits?
There are many examples of barriers that contribute to making places inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities. Disability access lawsuits commonly allege barriers like inaccessible: parking spaces, parking signage, parking access aisles, passenger loading zones, van accessible aisles, routes to and from a parking lot or public right of way, ground surfaces, curb ramps, restrooms, restroom fixtures, doors, counters, hotel and motel bathtubs and showers, customer aisles within buildings, dining and work spaces, wheelchair spaces in assembly areas, bars, tables, gas pumps, automatic teller machines, fare machines, pool lifts, drinking fountains and water coolers. Not all barrier removals are required under the law. Removal of the foregoing examples of barriers is not always readily achievable and they will not always justify an award of statutory damages. It is impossible to guaranty a result or predict the outcome of a disability access lawsuit, and each case is dependent on its own unique facts and circumstances.
What kinds of businesses are covered by the Unruh Act?
The Unruh Act requires full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services in all business establishments. This includes, but is not limited to, hotels and motels, restaurants, bars, theatres, hospitals, barber and beauty shops, public agencies, retail establishments, professional offices, shopping centers, strip malls and convenience stores.
Is pre-filing notice required before filing a disability access lawsuit?
No. Neither the ADA nor California state law require people with disabilities to give pre-filing notice or provide an opportunity to cure before filing a disability access lawsuit. In most cases we recommend sending pre-lawsuit letters offering settlement negotiations as a matter of courtesy.
What does filing a disability access lawsuit require from the client?
People with qualified disabilities and actionable claims can file disability access lawsuits. Our clients provide factual information describing and substantiating their claims. Once we have reviewed the information and researched, prepared and filed a client’s case, we expect the client to be regularly available to communicate, respond to questions and sign documents. Sometimes our clients have to attend court hearings and depositions, all of which are arranged with prior notice. If a case proceeds to trial, a client may be called upon to testify or otherwise participate.
Is a disability access lawsuit necessary to improve access?
Not always. Disability access lawsuits are proven to be an effective way of bringing about change, but there are other ways to resolve access problems. Visit the mobile application link above to learn about the My Access App.