Most people walk right through them nearly every day without realizing. But emergency room nurses, lawyers and insurance agents see them as glaringly obvious danger zones.

Between the space where cars drive and park and the space where people walk and shop, every store has a narrow zone where the two either meet or something stops them from meeting.

Unless someone makes some simple changes, costly personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death suits, lease disputes, breach-of-contract litigation and more can grow in that zone overnight like dandelions.

How often do vehicles smash into stores?

Car vs. store crashes are common, as anyone who watches the evening news knows. But up-to-the-minute numbers are hard to find. Government crash numbers come from public roadways. Private land owners do not have to tell, so we must rely on news stories and facts made public in lawsuits.

One of the best studies so far says cars crash into American convenience stores and gas stations about 20 times a day, leading to these businesses forking over legal settlements of over $70 million a year. Looking at all commercial buildings (including offices, barbershops, etc.) the number grows to $200 million every year.

Why is this happening and when will it stop?

Most people who ram their cars into storefronts are either young or old. Drivers with less than five years behind the wheel and drivers more than 70 years old make up the largest group of store crashers.

Over half of store vs. car crashes come from people mixing up their gas pedal and their brake. Given that Americans are getting older, and more people are looking at phones as they drive, experts expect storefront crashes to increase over time.

Store owners should also remember that, increasingly, thieves use cars as tools to break into stores and grab their cash, cash register, ATM or merchandise. A nice, glassy store often makes for a “soft target” for these people.

What can you do today to prevent disaster tomorrow?

Your insurance company or your landlord’s insurance company may help with or even pay for the cost of improvements to your business location(s).

The cost of installing bollards, adding or removing wheel stops and some newly painted lines is far lower than paying medical expenses, funeral costs and pain-and-suffering settlements for your customers, your employees or you, not to mention repairing the damaged building.

An attorney with enough experience in just the right areas can help you negotiate contracts with insurance companies, your landlord, tenants, or construction firms, as well as settle disputes with them. They can also help you face a personal injury lawsuit from a customer or employee or their surviving family.