Regardless of your industry, it’s important to run a business (both online and offline) that includes those with disabilities according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes making sure your website keeps contrast sensitivity in mind for those with vision impairments, being mindful of your videos for those with epilepsy, making your forms easy to fill out for those with motor impairments, and much more.
So what happens if your site isn’t ADA compliant? You open yourself up to a lawsuit. The financial burden of an ADA lawsuit for noncompliance can cost a business up to $25,000. The following are all of the costs that will add up during the course of the lawsuit, including fees your business will have to pay regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome.
Defendant’s Legal Costs
Whether a company decides to use their internal legal team or hire an outside attorney, this will be a substantial cost. Using an internal legal team may force a company to hire a different legal team for other matters within the company. Outside attorneys can cost from anywhere between $100 to $400 an hour depending on where the company is located and how experienced the legal team is. Surely, understanding these fees is important when hiring contingent fee lawyers.
Plaintiff’s Legal Costs
If the plaintiff wins the ADA case, the defendant is required to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees. In 2019, there were 11,053 ADA lawsuits filed, and this number has continued to rise over the past two years. With the growing risk of being sued for noncompliance, the risk of paying the plaintiff’s fees as well as the company’s own legal fees is also rising. In addition to paying the legal costs of a plaintiff if they win, the people with disabilities can collect damages. Typically, the standard fine for each violation is about $4,000. and these can be awarded per visit.
Depending on what specifically the lawsuit is filed for and how the case is proceeding, a company may need to hire expert witnesses for the case. Regardless of whether or not the company wins the case, experts will need to be compensated. On average, expert witnesses cost $245 an hour, so depending on how long the case goes for and how many experts are needed, this can be a significant cost in a lawsuit.
Currently many legal disputes are being handled through mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution to resolve ADA suits. While turning to mediation may save parties from going to court, this process can still be a huge cost. Mediators charge on average $41 an hour. So again, depending on how long the mediation lasts, this can add up quickly in fees. In addition to the actual cost of mediation, during an ADA lawsuit the plaintiff will likely need accommodations depending on their disability. If the defendant would like to head to mediation, then they will need to pay for these accommodations as well. Understanding these expenses is critical to reduce startup costs for businesses.
Tag Along Lawsuits
While a company is being sued for an ADA lawsuit, other plaintiffs can make claims against the company at the same time. Unless the case is filed as a class action lawsuit, a company is at risk for being sued by others for noncompliance. Even if a company is in the process of fixing the parts of their business that were not ADA compliant, like the case of Haynes vs Hooters of America, they are still at risk for being sued again. This can double a company’s cost in legal and professional business fees.
Fixing The Problem
The final, and arguably most important cost of an ADA lawsuit, is actually fixing the problem that the company was sued for in the first place. For example, if a business is being sued for not providing a ramp for wheelchair accessibility into their store, the cost of building this ramp is going to be an added expense during or following the lawsuit. In addition to physical changes that might be needed, digital accessibility lawsuits are also on the rise.
New standards were just recently released under the Americans with Disabilities Act, also known as the ADA. These new requirements specifically address web accessibility, as well as requirements. Therefore, you need your website to be readily accessible to users with blindness, deafness, or require the use of assistive technology. These rules are an essential requirement for business operating more than twenty weeks a year. Similarly, you must meet ADA demands if you employ over 15 workers.
While making some of these changes are simple, businesses are finding it difficult to comply with every single necessary feature for accessibility, and the cost to hire a developer for your startup to manually do the work each time you make a change to your site adds up quickly.
Automated accessibility solution accessiBe, however, can easily be implemented onto a business’s website and automates the process of making all website pages and elements accessible. The cost of using this tool is much less than that of hiring a developer, and the platform guarantees ADA and WCAG compliance, to protect you from the aforementioned legal fees of an ADA lawsuit.
To avoid these business legal battles and continue to grow your organization, companies should be proactive about ensuring accessibility for any and all users.