Premises Liability Lawsuits
(Unsafe Property Accidents)
Office buildings, stores, homes, apartment buildings, and other premises may present hazards that can cause slips, falls, and other mishaps. When these types of accidents lead to severe injuries, permanent disabilities, or even death, the person who owns or possesses the premises may be held liable. These types of legal issues fall under what is known as premises liability law.
Within the context of premises liability, a person “possesses” the premises (land, property, business, etc.) when:
- They are in occupation of the land with intent to control it
- They have been in occupation of the land with intent to control it, if no other person has subsequently occupied it with intent to control it
- They are entitled to immediate occupation of the land, if no other person is in possession as just defined.
Causes of Property Accidents
Some common causes of premises accidents include:
- Damaged staircases or steps
- Wet slippery floors in public or retail premises (e.g. grocery store, shopping mall)
- Sidewalk defects, broken or cracked pavement
- Municipal (e.g. public park, school accident)
- Dram Shop Liability (e.g. bar and tavern staff are responsible for ensuring their customers are able to operate a motor vehicle or otherwise function. If an intoxicated person who was sold liquor by a store, restaurant or tavern ends up drunk driving and causing an accident the bartender, clerk or establishment may be held liable)
- Social host liability (e.g. providing liquor to minor resulting in an accident)
- Attractive Nuisances (e.g. child falls in swimming pool)
- Accumulation of snow and ice leading to injury
- Security Negligence (e.g. office building robbery)
Types of Premises Liability Injuries
- Head injury
- Brain injury
- Significant scarring
- Definitively diagnosed disc injury
- Significant permanent injuries
Elements of a Premises Liability Case
Before you consider filing a premises liability claim it is important to understand the laws that pertain to your particular state.
There are generally four main elements you must prove for a successful premises liability case. They include:
- The property was in or contained a dangerous condition
- The dangerous condition caused the injury
- The owner or person controlling the property knew or should have known about the dangerous condition
- The owner or person controlling the property had reasonable opportunity to fix the hazardous condition
Furthermore, under premises liability law, an owner of the premises is not liable for a claimant’s injury simply by virtue of the injury occurring on the owner’s premises. The injury party has to prove that the owner was negligent, and that the owner’s negligence caused the claimant’s injury. Also the owner’s liability to the injured party can vary significantly depending upon how the injured person is classified. Basically there are three types of classifications:
- Invitee – A person who is invited to enter the premises for commercial or business purposes (e.g. shopping mall, etc.). For example, this can either be a customer or employee. The invitation may be either express or implied. In this instance, the possessor has a duty to use ordinary care to warn or otherwise protect the invitee from risks of harm from a condition on the premises.
- Licensee – A licensee is commonly referred to as a “social guest.” It is a person who visits the property for the purposes of friendship and socialization. It can also include a door to door salesman, fireman battling a blaze or police responding to an alarm on your property.
- Trespasser – A person who, intentionally or by mistake, enters another’s property without permission. An owner owes a trespasser the duty not to willfully or wantonly injure them.
It’s important to understand that a child’s status as an invitee, licensee and trespasser is not determined by the child’s age or his capacity. Therefore the owner’s duty to a child is not affected by the child’s lack of maturity. Also a child’s age is relevant in determining if they can appreciate a danger and may expose an owner to greater liability in having to anticipate a trespassing child’s lack of understanding of a dangerous condition.
Knowing that children are almost often drawn to certain hazards courts have created a legal fiction known as the attractive nuisance doctrine in an attempt to force an owner to protect children from their own curiosity. Under this theory, an owner is potentially liable for injuries caused a trespassing child. Therefore an owner should take precautions such as erecting some kind of barrier to keep children away from the harm.
Premises Liability Lawyers
The above information provides a general overview of premises liability law. Premises liability laws vary considerable from state to state. In order to determine your legal rights it is important to consult with our experienced accident lawyers who can better advise you of your legal rights.