Premises liability is a legal concept that holds property owners responsible for a wide range of accidents that happen on their property due to a dangerous, preventable situation and are not handled with reasonable care. Under Arizona law, a property owner is an implicit responsibility to maintain their premises according to basic safety standards, whether following fire safety or repairing a slip and fall hazard.
Premises liability accidents can lead to devastating injuries that are potentially life-changing. The consequences for Phoenix victims and their families can include physical pain, overwhelming medical expenses, and long-term health complications that make it difficult to earn a living. When these injuries are caused due to a property owner’s neglect or carelessness, Arizona’s premises liability laws provide a way to hold the negligent party accountable for the resulting damages. You can contact a premises liability attorney who can help understand legal rights.
Common Types of Premises Liability Accidents
Arizona has implemented premises liability laws that apply to various settings, from commercial spaces like stores and movie theaters to private homes and apartment buildings. These laws hold property owners liable for protecting all legal visitors from unnecessary harm with broad responsibilities that include keeping indoor and outdoor spaces free of hazards, addressing unsafe situations promptly, and posting visible warnings to alert visitors of potential dangers.
Some of the scenarios when victims of a preventable accident can sue for compensation under the principles of premises liability include:
Dog owners in Arizona must monitor their dogs closely, use a leash in public areas, and properly socialize them. When owners fail to follow the proper safety measures, dire consequences can follow for bystanders and unsuspecting visitors.
A dog attack can cause painful injuries, including punctures, violent lacerations, life-threatening bacterial infections, and lasting psychological harm from the trauma. Arizona is recognized for having strict liability dog laws, which hold owners to a high standard of responsibility when preventing their pets from harming others.
That means you can hold owners liable for any unprovoked attack, regardless of whether the dog has a history of biting anyone or showing aggressive behavior.
Slip and Fall Accidents
One of the most common and potentially serious types of premises liability accidents is slip and falls, which can happen on any walking surface that’s uneven, unstable, poorly lit, or otherwise hazardous.
Slip and fall accidents are caused due to slick surfaces, broken steps, missing or unsecured handrails, bulging spots in the carpet, and obstructed walking paths, among many other reasons.
A sudden fall can be dangerous for anyone, but they’re particularly risky for the elderly, who are more likely to have vision problems, difficulty with balance, and weaker bones. Slip and fall accidents can lead to head trauma, torn ligaments, a broken or dislocated hip, and even spinal cord damage.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a toxic, odorless gas produced by appliances like furnaces, stoves, and water heaters. Leaks can happen with older appliances, especially if they haven’t been properly installed or maintained. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide over an extended period is extremely hazardous to human health, with severe cases causing brain damage, heart failure, and even death.
After a serious carbon monoxide leak, property owners can be held legally responsible for any preventable failures that contributed to the accident. Some examples are not having appliances inspected to make sure they comply with safety codes or not providing an adequate number of functioning carbon monoxide detectors.
Violent Crime Due to Poor Security
When it’s a commercial space or a residential building, inadequate security can pose a very real threat to the safety of visitors. Property owners have a legal duty to put measures in place to prevent foreseeable dangers, especially physical assault. Some examples include proper locks, adequate lighting for parking lots and walkways, secure access to all doors, and security cameras.
In Arizona, property owners with a lot of foot traffic coming in and out must also have enhanced security measures to keep visitors safe, such as trained security guards. When lax security creates the conditions for a violent crime, the victim may be entitled to sue the property owner for compensation under premises liability.
Preventing fires is one of the most important responsibilities for any property owner due to the extreme risk of tragedy, including catastrophic injuries or death. Compliance with Arizona’s fire code includes maintaining the electrical wiring up to specific standards, not using flammable construction materials, and having a functioning sprinkler system for larger properties such as hotels.
People on the premises need the means to escape a fire as quickly as possible, if necessary, such as having smoke detectors and clear emergency exits. If a fire started due to preventable hazards, such as an electrical malfunction that better maintenance could have avoided, you can hold the property owner liable for the resulting damages.
Swimming Pool Accidents
Swimming pools are a must in Phoenix almost all year long, but having one on the property isn’t all fun and games. Whether it’s a public swimming pool or located at a private home, apartment building, or hotel, there are significant legal responsibilities attached to having a pool.
Property owners must safeguard against serious injuries or accidental drowning. Keeping swimming pools safe includes properly fencing off the the pool and making it inaccessible to unsupervised children, providing lifeguards when necessary, and maintaining infrastructure like ladders or diving boards.
Phoenix rental properties are required to adhere to strict legal standards of habitability. As part of their legal obligation to provide their tenants with a safe and secure living environment, landlords have to inspect their properties regularly and address any potential hazards in a reasonable amount of time.
For example, if a landlord knows that there are rotting wooden steps leading up to the front door of their rental property but fails to take action, they can be liable if a tenant gets injured from tripping and falling. The same goes for exposure to toxic mold due to persistent leaks that weren’t repaired for an extended period of time.
Many businesses operate from leased premises. A major part of these agreements assumes most of the legal obligation for maintaining the property and preventing safety hazards, especially indoor spaces. If a customer or employee gets injured due to the tenant’s failure to take necessary precautions, such as not cleaning up spills in a walkway, the victim would typically sue for compensation from the lessee.
While the legal standards for liability are less stringent for private homeowners in Arizona than for businesses, they can still be held responsible for not maintaining a safe property or failing to warn legal visitors of unreasonably dangerous conditions. Dog bites, swimming pool accidents, and slip and fall injuries are some of the most common premise liability examples that involve private homeowners.
State- and city-owned properties are subject to the same legal responsibilities as any other property owner in Arizona. Agencies have to be proactive with the safety and security of anyone on the premises legally, whether it’s a public park or a government office, and can be held financially liable for damages that result from negligence. However, there are some important limitations in the legal process for suing a government agency, such as a much shorter statute of limitations.
Proving Negligence After A Premises Liability Accident
To win a premises liability case in Arizona, it’s not enough to prove that your accident happened on the liable party’s property or that it resulted in serious injuries. Being able to recover compensation will revolve around whether the victim’s injury resulted from actual neglect rather than a pure accident that couldn’t have been predicted or prevented. That means it’s necessary to establish that the property owner created the hazardous conditions that led to these injuries.
However, some crucial factors can limit the victim’s eligibility for pursuing compensation, especially whether they were on the property legally.
Under Arizona’s premises liability laws, visitors on the property are grouped into invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
- Invitees include tenants, customers, employees, and other invited guests. Property owners owe invitees a very high standard of care and are liable for not proactively mitigating any potential risks.
- Licensees have permission to be on the property, but they’re not necessarily invited, such as a utility worker that gains access to the property while doing work. Property owners don’t have as much liability for licensees’ safety but are still responsible for warning them of any hazards that could pose an unforeseeable danger.
- Trespassers are on the property illegally, which means the property owner has very little responsibility to prevent them from getting hurt. One exception is underage trespassers, such as a child that goes into a swimming pool that doesn’t have sufficiently secured access.
The other essential elements that are required to meet the threshold for establishing negligence under Arizona’s premises liability laws include:
- The property owner owed the victim a duty of care: This element includes not only showing that the victim was on the property legally but also that they didn’t get injured due to being in a restricted area, such as the employees-only warehouse of a business.
- The property owner violated this duty of care: Evidence that the property owner didn’t take reasonable steps to address an imminent danger or prevent a known hazardous situation, such as not hiring security guards with the appropriate credentials or letting their dog roam outside unsupervised.
- The property owner’s negligence caused the victim’s injuries and damages: It’s for property owners blame the victim in these types of cases, such as suggesting that a person that suffered a slip and fall due to preventable hazards must have been wearing inappropriate shoes. An experienced premises liability attorney can prepare a legal case that proves a direct connection between the property owner’s unreasonable neglect and the victim’s resulting medical bills, lost income, and quality of life costs.
How An Experienced Premises Liability Attorney Can Make A Difference
Winning a premises liability claim is very complicated because there are so many different factors at play, especially in being able to establish the legal standard of negligence. The insurance companies that represent property owners often use incredibly aggressive tactics to deny liability and offer as little compensation as possible.
An experienced personal injury lawyer is your best ally for preparing a persuasive case and protecting your legal rights. The right premises liability attorney can level the playing field by investigating every aspect of the case to gather all relevant evidence about the underlying causes of the accident, document the full extent of your economic and non-economic damages, and negotiate with insurers to reach a fair settlement for compensation.