What Is Premises Liability Law?
People often travel for work, to buy groceries, or to have fun. No matter where they are, they could get into an accident on someone else’s property for many reasons. Human negligence commonly contributes to these accidents. Usually, the property owner is careless, leading to injury.
Even if hazards appear minor, they can cause severe consequences. The victim may face significant economic and non-economic effects from the resulting accident. Premises liability attorneys can help victims seek reimbursement from negligent parties for their injuries.
What Accidents Comprise Premise Liability Claims?
Premises liability law focuses on the injuries someone sustains on another person’s property. Usually, an unsafe condition in the area leads to an incident. The rules entitle the victim to sue for compensation if the property owner’s negligence played a role in the accident.
Legally, people who own a piece of land must take measures to keep the environment safe. If they fail to remove a hazard or warn people, they can be liable for damages for resulting accidents and injuries. Nevertheless, some states regulate who can seek compensation and under what conditions.
The laws for premises liability encompass a variety of accidents. Two people might get injured differently, but both could be eligible for reimbursement.
Common scenarios include:
- Animal-related injuries. Over 4.5 million people report dog bites each year. Of course, other animals may injure someone. Many incidents occur because owners fail to secure their pets with a proper leash or gate.
- Slips and falls. Thousands of people seek medical treatment for injuries from falls. A person may trip or slip due to liquid or clutter on the floor. Restaurants, bars, and stores have a high accident potential.
- Toxic chemicals. The property could have chemicals nearby. If a leak happens, a visitor may become exposed to hazardous fumes. Alternatively, an unsuspecting person could come into contact with a substance and get burned.
- Swimming pool accidents. Since the pavement is regularly wet, the chances of a guest slipping are high. Other incidents may occur as well. Equipment malfunctions can lead to electrical burns, and more than 8,000 nonfatal drownings happen annually.
- Burn accidents. A property owner’s negligence might lead to a fire on the property. Contact with flames can severely damage the skin. Of course, a burn may happen if a victim touches a hot object. The owner is liable if they do not warn their guest of fire hazards.
- Elevators and escalators. Malls and other large buildings may see accidents if a problem ensues with an elevator or escalator. An estimated 17,000 people report injuries yearly, with a handful of fatalities.
A property owner or building manager’s negligence may result in many accidents. Talk to a lawyer if you are unsure if your injuries fall under premises liability. They can determine if you have a legitimate claim.
What if Someone Harms You on Another’s Property?
Another person may harm you directly while you visit a place. While the action is a criminal offense, you could file a civil lawsuit against whoever manages the property. The case would fall under negligent security, and negligent security is a form of premises liability.
Bars, restaurants, office buildings, and nightclubs have a high accident potential. The reason is many people frequent the locations. However, residential property owners have a legal obligation like their commercial counterparts.
Any property owner has to keep guests safe from harm. They should reasonably know the area has a high risk of criminal activity and implement safety measures. Someone could find themselves at fault if they cut corners on security.
A frequent example of negligent security is poor lighting. An area of the property may have had no lights or low visibility. A malicious party is more likely to take advantage of darkness.
Several places require security guards. Usually, you might see one at crowded locations. You could hold the venue’s owner liable for negligent security if no guards are present. A lawsuit is still valid if a building has a guard, but the person has little to no training.
Statute of Limitations for Premises Liability
States have laws for how long a victim can wait to sue the negligent party for injuries. The duration of the statute of limitations varies from place to place. You could have as little as two years or up to four or more. Of course, different time restrictions apply for specific claims.
You must file a property damage claim if the accident ruined your belongings. The deadline might be different. Additionally, you might adhere to the wrongful death statute of limitations if a loved one dies because of negligence.
Several states have rules to pause the statute of limitations under specific circumstances. Injured minors can often wait until they turn 18 before filing a claim. After their birthday, they have a set number of years before they lose their right to compensation.
Get started on your premises liability claim immediately to ensure you can still recover damages. An attorney can handle the paperwork to prevent the statute of limitations from expiring.
What if a Person Entered the Property Without Permission?
Usually, a property owner does not owe a duty of care to trespassers. The injured person did not have permission to enter the premises. Therefore, the court may dismiss an injury lawsuit against the property owner.
However, several places include specific exceptions to the rule. Despite trespassing, someone can sue for injuries if the property owner displayed intentional misconduct. The liable party may have suspected a person would enter uninvited. As a result, they created unsafe conditions or defects to cause injuries on purpose.
Alternatively, the property owner may have known about an unsafe condition. For example, a violent animal is on the premises. However, the person did not warn the trespasser upon noticing them.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Another exception is if the trespasser is a minor. Most states make property owners responsible for injuries to young children despite their visitor status. The attractive nuisance doctrine may hold the owner liable if a child trespasses and gets hurt.
The attractive nuisance doctrine requires people to take appropriate actions if a minor wanders onto the premises. They need to eliminate potential hazards and install safety equipment like fences. A person managing the area should place warning signs as well.
Generally, the legal duty applies to places with features a young child would find attractive. Examples include a playground, a swimming pool, and an amusement park.
Who Can You Hold Liable for a Broken Sidewalk?
You may sustain injuries after walking along the sidewalk. The pavement might have had cracks and been substantially uneven. As a result, you tripped and got hurt. However, the sidewalk is not a part of any person’s property. Therefore, you may question who is liable.
Even though an individual is not responsible, you may still be able to file a premises liability claim. Instead of another citizen, you would sue the local government for damages. The process is slightly different, and you typically have a shorter deadline to notify the department.
The city must ensure the environment is safe for people to walk. They should create dependable sidewalks and repair any broken ones. A person could have a valid claim if the government has a delayed response to dangerous conditions.
Many states waive governmental immunity to allow citizens to sue an agency for injuries. Some places restrict who can start a lawsuit and what accident types are eligible. Consult a premises liability lawyer if you believe the government was liable.
Common Premises Liability Defenses
During a premises liability case, the injured party must show how the defendant breached their duty. The victim needs to provide sufficient proof of negligence. Otherwise, they might not achieve a successful outcome.
Meanwhile, the opposing side may deny any claims of negligence. If they refuse the allegations, they will construct an argument to convince the court they are not liable. The defense’s strategy is different for each case based on the factors of the accident.
Assumption of Risk
The property owner may state the plaintiff had an assumption of risk when they entered the premises. The injured party was aware of the potential dangers but proceeded anyway. They might not be able to claim damages from the property owner.
Did Not Know of the Hazard
Negligence in premises liability cases rests on the idea the property owner or building manager knew of the hazard. In response, the defendant could state they were unaware of the unsafe condition. However, the statement may not be enough to avoid accountability.
Property owners should reasonably know or discover any risks on their property. Therefore, the other side has to show how they could not have been aware of the hazard and responded in time.
The Plaintiff Ignored the Signs
Locations like public swimming pools usually have multiple visible signs in place. The signs may describe potential accident risks and safety rules. The defendant in a lawsuit may argue the plaintiff willfully ignored the warnings and rules. As a result, they are not liable for injuries.
The Condition Was Noticeable
Another common defensive argument in premises liability cases is the danger was open and obvious. The hazard was visible, and the plaintiff should have noticed it as another reasonable person would have. Additionally, the victim might have been able to take another path but did not.
Limited circumstances may prevent the other party from using the argument successfully. The victim could still obtain compensation if the property owner distracted them from seeing the dangerous condition.
Some property managers fight aggressively to avoid paying for damages. Have a lawyer by your side to protect your case from defensive tactics. They know how the other party might respond and will work to counter them.
Evidence in a Premises Liability Claim
Evidence is crucial for any premises liability case. The injured party must gather enough proof to establish negligence. They should collect everything they need right away since evidence can degrade or become lost over time.
One type of evidence you may use is a photograph. Use your phone to take photos of the hazard or defective part of the property. Pictures of the surrounding area and any visible injuries also can be beneficial.
If you were in a store, a camera might have captured footage of the event. CCTV from nearby buildings could have visuals of the accident if you sustained injuries outside. You and your lawyer can request a copy of the footage for your claim.
Witnesses are essential for premises liability cases. They saw what likely caused the accident and how you got hurt. Therefore, you need to obtain their names and contact information for later.
Your lawyer reaches out to any witnesses to get a statement. However, you must get their testimony as early as possible. People’s memories can fade and be less reliable over time.
An element of negligence in premises liability is the connection between the accident and your condition. X-rays, test results, doctor’s notes, and other documents show how a dangerous environment caused an injury or illness.
Additionally, your medical documents prove your injuries led to losses. You suffered economic damages due to the bills you acquired from treatment.
Should You Say Anything to the Owner or Insurer?
Do not say anything to the property’s manager if they attempt to contact you. Moreover, you should not talk about the situation if their insurance company calls you. They may try to convince you to discuss the accident and give a recorded statement.
The other party or the insurance adjuster may look for speculative statements. They could use the speculation as a reason the property owner is not liable. Additionally, the adjuster may review what you have said for possible admissions of guilt.
Even if the person on the phone seems friendly, they may prioritize their interests. Avoid any discussions of the accident or your injuries. Instead, begin your search for a premises liability lawyer. An attorney speaks to the other side for you and instructs you on what to say if you must talk to the insurer.
To learn more about premises liability and to determine if you have a claim, contact a personal injury lawyer near you today.