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Property owners (commercial and residential) owe you a duty of care while you’re on their premises. Whether you’re an employee, customer, or visitor, property owners should consider your safety. This includes maintaining the property in safe conditions or warning you of any lurking dangers.
Failing to do so equates to negligence, and negligent property owners should cover any damages you sustain should you get hurt. However, compensation under premises liability does not always flow automatically. If you have had an accident on someone’s property, you must prove that the property owner owed you a duty of care.
In most cases, the property owner’s insurer might want to shift the blame to you to evade the claim or reduce liability. Property owners achieve this by riding on legal defenses, such as:
For instance, if you had a slip and fall accident due to a slippery floor, the insurance company might argue that you ought to have exercised more caution and thus bear partial liability for the accident. This principle of apportioning fault is called comparative negligence and allows at-fault parties to reduce your compensation by the percentage of your fault.
Sometimes, the insurance company might employ an assumption of risk defense to reject your claim by arguing that you knew of the danger. For instance, if a tennis player borrows a court for practice and then falls and sustains an injury after tripping over a pothole, the court owner’s insurer might claim the player assumed the risk. The property owner will likely argue that the player should have inspected the court and ought to have noticed the pothole before beginning the practice.
Despite the above and other defenses that the insurer might present, an experienced premises liability lawyer can develop a strong case to defend against defensive arguments and prove the owner’s negligence. Essentially, if you can clearly demonstrate a breach of duty of care and quantify your damages, then you will have a valid claim against the defendant.
In proving a property owner’s negligence, injured plaintiffs must prove certain elements, including:
As earlier mentioned, property owners ought to guarantee the safety of the users. Ideally, property owners should:
If a property owner relies on any of the defenses mentioned above, he or she might fail to convince the court, since in both cases, the properties had unsafe conditions and the property owners failed to make the necessary repairs. This brings us to the next element required to validate your claim: breach.
By failing to maintain the property and repair any conditions that might hurt users or place warning signs conspicuously, the owner breaches the required duty of care. In some cases, the property owner may argue that he or she lacked knowledge of the dangers.
For instance, if a water pipe near a pavement suddenly started leaking, making it slippery, the owner may argue that he or she did not know about the danger. However, a property owner’s duty of care involves doing regular property inspections and ensuring users’ safety at all times.
You must also demonstrate that the property owner’s breach of duty directly caused the accident and injuries. For example, if the property had slippery floors, and the owner failed to place warning signs, leading to your accident, you can argue that you did not know the floors were slippery and that the property owner’s failure to warn you caused the accident and your injuries.
An accident alone does not warrant compensation, as accidents do not always result in injuries. For example, if you trip and fall due to an uneven floor, you may or may not get hurt.
To qualify for compensation, you must have suffered substantial damages from the accident, such as medical costs, nursing care, loss of income, etc. In this case, you will have to provide evidence, like medical records, a letter from your employer, and other relevant documents.
Essentially, defendants in a premises liability case can include:
Premises liability accidents vary from one setting to another. From poorly maintained buildings to equipment-related accidents and animal attacks, premises liability carries a host of hazards.
Some common ones include:
Other possible accidents covered under premises liability laws include fire hazards, snow and ice accidents, elevator and staircase accidents, and more.
Premises liability claims cover any injury caused by an accident sustained on the property.
The most common injuries include:
The damages awarded in a premises liability claim will vary depending on the extent of the injuries and the strength of the evidence to prove the property owner’s level of liability. Generally, you may receive compensatory damages only or with additional punitive damages, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident.
These damages may include:
In a premises liability case, a plaintiff may fall under any of these categories.
The law provides special exceptions to child trespassers as it’s assumed that children are naturally curious and may feel tempted to venture into areas where they do not have permission to go. If your child was harmed by a dangerous condition, even if trespassing, the owner of the land may be liable.
If you plan to file a premises liability claim, you should know about the statute of limitations. Essentially, the statute of limitations involves a set time limit within which the law allows you to file a compensation claim.
In our case of premises liability claims, the statute of limitation is usually two years from the date of the accident. If you lodge the claim after this period, the court will likely dismiss it. In this eventuality, you would miss out on any compensation regardless of how much you have lost. In some instances, for example if the government was the owner of the property, the statute of limitations may be shorter.
A possible exception involves if you were under 18 years when the accident happened. In this case, the statute of limitation deadline starts counting once you attain 18 years.
If you have a premises liability claim that you intend to pursue, reach out to a premises liability lawyer today for a free case evaluation.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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