What Happens Should I Get Sued For Lack Of ADA Compliance For My Website?

If you run a business or non-profit organization then you probably have a website. No, you do have a website. In recent years a rash of lawsuits regarding these sites have been filed regarding ADA compliance. The most famous have targeted larger and more high profile organizations but that does not mean that small businesses and nonprofits are immune from this as well. If you have not been hit with a lawsuit you are on borrowed time, so what should you do when that day comes?

First a disclaimer. This is intended to provide a general overview and in no way represents legal advice or legal counsel. If you are subjected to an ADA complaint please consult an actual attorney before proceeding and follow their instructions. In the end that is the best advice that we can give.

Why Is The Plaintiff Filing?

In most cases regarding ADA compliance the plaintiff is filing because they want access to your website. The good news for you is that in most of these cases that is sufficient for them and little to no monetary damages will be awarded to them as long as they gain access. 

Of course that does not mean that financially you would be out of the woods. There of course would be legal fees and the cost of making your website ADA compliant. That may not come cheap. The best way to avoid at least the legal fees is to make your website ADA compliant before it comes to this.

Americans also have a reputation of filing frivolous lawsuits. Could this be one? You’ll need to figure that out as well and an attorney would be the best person to consult.

Consult An Attorney

When being hit with a complaint the first thing that you should do is to consult an attorney. They can discuss with you a course of action, both in the legal system and outside of the legal system. An attorney can also look over any existing contracts to determine if any other parties are liable as well. This can help to take the burden off of you, at least partially.

Hiring an attorney is of course not cheap but going it alone is not a good option in this case. The legal system is a confusing series of twists and turns with words and phrases that you do not understand. A lawyer does and can make the process easier for you and provide you with the guidance that you need. They can also determine if the complaint has merit or if it is frivolous.

Do Not Ignore The Letter

You will be contacted by letter from the plaintiff’s representatives. It may not even need to come to that. It is possible that the plaintiff may send some sort of communication before asking you to take action. They want to be a customer and something is preventing them from doing so. If someone proceeds in this manner don’t ignore this. By taking action you can potentially avoid a lot of trouble down the road.

But if it comes to this point do not simply put the letter on the scrap pile and forget about it. This is a legal complaint and ignoring them does not make them go away. Answer the letter quickly. Not only does this show good faith but it can potentially help you to avoid a lawsuit and come to an agreement. Ignore it and a lawsuit is a certainty.

Website Audit

ADA compliance can be extremely complicated and you will need to find where your website is deficient. An audit of the website will do that. There are a lot of services that do a scan but if you are facing a lawsuit an actual human check is the best option. Did you hire a company (like Nicely Done Sites) to build your website? If you did, they would be the best place to start.

Fix The Issue

With the results of the audit in hand (and your attorney’s blessing to proceed) it is time to fix the issue. Whether it is adding closed captioning, making sure that your site is accessible to screen readers or just adding alt text to images (or more) fixing the issue can be time consuming (and expensive) but at this point it needs to be done. Chances are if a lawsuit proceeds you are going to be doing it anyway, so do it now or do it later. If you do it now you might even be able to have the complaint dropped saving yourself attorney fees and a lot of hassle. 

Who should do the work? You might be able to handle fixing the issue but chances are this is going to be time consuming and very involved. You still have a business to run so you might not have the time.  Again, if a company built your website they should be the best people to do the work. Not only did they build your website so they are familiar with it but you already have a working relationship with them. 

Inform The Plaintiff

With the issues fixed don’t forget to inform the plaintiff. If the issues that were present are no longer a problem chances are they will be satisfied and drop their complaint. With that complete your website should no longer be open to ADA compliance complaints and thus you will be able to sleep better at night. That is until you add more content to your website.

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