When someone owns a piece of land, they must keep it safe if they allow visitors. However, accidents can still occur due to a variety of reasons. If you obtained injuries at a mall or grocery store, for example, you might come across the concept of premises liability.
Most states have a premises liability law to determine who could be at fault and how to prove negligence. Each jurisdiction might contain differences in its laws regarding accidents on another person’s land. You should become familiar with the rules if you plan to pursue reimbursement for your damages.
Types of Premises Liability Accidents
#1. Slips and Falls
When you visit a public area or someone’s house, various types of accidents could happen. One common situation is when a person slips and falls. A slip and fall can occur due to clutter or liquid on the ground. The smooth pavement could become uneven and cause the person to trip.
Even weak or broken stairs could lead to injuries. The National Floor Safety Institute reports how slip and falls make up roughly one million emergency room visits per year. Many incidents occur at workplaces like restaurants.
#2. Dog Bites
Many more people suffer dog-related injuries than one would think. About 4.5 million people are bitten each year. Dog owners have to keep their pets at a safe distance from other people. When a dog damages property or causes bodily harm, the owner usually must reimburse the victim.
Many states have strict liability laws for dog bite lawsuits regardless of the animal’s history of behavior. The laws of where you live can be different from other jurisdictions. Speak to a lawyer who can tell you your rights.
#3. Swimming Pool Accidents
Swimming pool accidents can include diving board defects, pool equipment entrapment, and electrical defects. Some people experience near-drowning incidents, and physical injuries could happen when you are too close to another swimmer. Additionally, severe cases lead to fatalities.
An estimated 3,960 fatal unintentional drownings occur every year, and children have a higher risk than other age groups. Some people cannot swim, so public pools need to have lifeguards to supervise the place. The property manager could be liable if they have missing or inadequate fencing to keep young children out.
#4. Negligent Security
Another example of premises liability has to do with a lack of property security. Some areas have a higher chance of crime than others. Clubs, concerts, and other crowded places benefit from having a security guard around. Other forms of protection include sufficient lighting and cameras.
A property manager could be liable if they do not keep parking lots well-lit or have broken cameras. Even an untrained security guard could mean you have the right to sue if an assailant hurts you.
Premises Liability Law
Accidents can happen anywhere, and you might suffer injuries on another person’s property. Several incidents are the result of someone else’s negligence. You might want to take legal action but do not know the rules regarding your rights to sue.
Most states have a premises liability law in case of a personal injury accident. Generally, premises liability laws hold the property owner responsible for injuries a person sustains on their land. An owner has to ensure the environment is safe for visitors and fix issues in a reasonable amount of time.
You can bring a case against a homeowner, landlord, or building manager. The failure to keep the place safe for people can result in premises liability. However, the injured party would need to prove the landowner was careless in the property’s maintenance.
The manager should have been aware of the problem and taken adequate measures to fix the condition. Not all cases of unsafe conditions mean the manager or property owner acted negligently. The defense could argue they did not reasonably know of the issue.
You should have a lawyer on your side to increase the odds of success. An attorney can answer any questions you have about the premises liability law as well.
The Visitor Status Can Matter
In several places, the landowner must take precautions for anyone who would step foot onto the property. However, multiple states limit the property owner’s liability based on the guest status of the injured party.
A premises liability law might have a person fall under one of three groups:
- Invitees. An invitee is someone who has the landowner’s permission to enter the property. The group can consist of family, friends, and neighbors you invite into a private home. Someone who makes business transactions at a company counts as well. People are invitees when in public areas like a park or hospital. The owner owes them a duty of care.
- Licensees. Licensees are individuals who have permission to enter the property for their own benefit. A customer in a store would be a licensee. Another example is a salesman who wants to sell a product. Like invitees, the landowner has responsibility for a licensee’s well-being.
- Trespassers. A trespasser is an individual who goes onto another person’s property without permission. A common type would be a robber. Usually, the property manager does not owe a duty of care to the uninvited visitor.
Some people may wonder if an apartment landlord is liable for the injuries of a tenant’s guests. In several places, the property manager is not accountable. Landlords generally are under the presumption the tenant has control of the condition of the unit.
Of course, concealed defects are an exception. However, other states may consider a tenant’s guest as business invitees. As a result, the landlord has to take the necessary precautions on the premises.
What if the Trespasser Is a Minor?
Children make up a portion of victims in premises liability cases. However, a few of them trespassed at the time of the accident. Most states hold property owners accountable for the injuries uninvited minors sustained.
Your state might have an attractive nuisance doctrine in place. If a property with potential dangers draws in a child, it would be an attractive nuisance. Examples include swimming pools, trampolines, hot tubs, and places with ponds.
Property owners have to take the necessary steps to prevent children from entering the property. Fences and locks are a couple of tools they might use. Some places have requirements for the type of fences a person has. For instance, the barrier should be a specific height.
An owner should keep the environment as safe as possible if a minor wanders around the area. If your child got hurt on another person’s property, you should reach out to a lawyer to see if you have a case.
How Long Do You Have to Sue?
If you decide to sue for premises liability, personal injury laws place a strict time limit on your ability to gain compensation. Begin your lawsuit as quickly as possible to avoid a missed deadline. Generally, your deadline starts on the day of the accident.
The statute of limitation for premises liability cases is different from state to state. You should review the statute of limitations of where you live and how it applies to your case.
Several jurisdictions allow exceptions to delay the deadline in a few circumstances. If the injured party is a minor, they have two years from their 18th birthday. Some states temporarily pause the statute of limitations if the victim was legally incompetent at the time of the accident.
Other deadlines could apply to your accident as well. One is the statute of limitations for property damage. Cases of negligent security or a fall could result in a broken phone, watch, or glasses. The period might be shorter or longer than the one for personal injuries.
An accident on another party’s land could lead to death. Wrongful death deadlines may vary from those involving other personal injuries.
You can potentially sue for compensation if you received injuries on government property. Typically, you must follow specific rules on how long you have to notify the agency of your lawsuit.
Who Can Sue in a Fatal Premises Liability Case?
In fatal premises liability cases, surviving family members can receive compensation for their losses. Different states specify who can file a lawsuit on the deceased’s behalf. Some of them only allow designated beneficiaries to go to civil court.
Designated beneficiaries include immediate family members like spouses and children. Parents can file a claim on their children’s behalf as well. A few states allow siblings, grandparents, and other distant relatives as designated beneficiaries. In some cases, a financial dependent of the deceased can sue the negligent party.
Other states only allow the person’s estate to represent the victim in court. A personal representative is the one to start a case to seek compensation for the family. Either the person’s will or the probate court can determine who becomes the personal representative.
A lawyer can inform you who would be able to sue the at-fault party on behalf of your loved one.
The Insurance Company Offers a Quick Settlement
The property owner’s insurer may offer you money soon after an accident. The insurance company may try to settle quickly if the landowner is clearly at fault. You may feel tempted to accept the cash since the process would be more convenient.
However, don’t sign any papers until you speak to a premises liability attorney to see your options. You could have the chance to sue for a higher amount of money.
Insurance companies prefer to pay as little as they possibly can. A lawsuit can ensure you get fair compensation for the damages you sustained.
Types of Evidence You Can Use
When you file a premises liability claim, you should begin gathering evidence. The evidence can help you counter any defenses the property manager or owner might have. What you need depends on the circumstances of your accident.
Types of evidence include:
- Photos. Images provide visuals of the hazardous condition. Take pictures of the puddle on the ground or crack in the pavement. They should capture the surrounding area as well. For example, you can show there was no wet floor sign visible.
- Medical records. You could use medical records of your injuries and treatment as evidence. Since your case mainly involves your claims of bodily harm, the documents help prove the seriousness of the accident. Additionally, you can increase the value of a settlement.
- Video footage. You can check if any cameras were nearby to record the accident. Most retail stores have security cameras. You can obtain the footage to show how an employee did not clean up a spill in a reasonable time.
- Witnesses. Like any personal injury case, you should contact anyone who may have seen the accident. You need to record their name and phone number after the incident to reach out to them later. Collect their statements soon while their memories are still fresh.
- Employment records. Pay stubs and employment records show the wages you lost due to your injuries. The accident on another’s property might have resulted in lost vacation, promotion opportunities, and additional perks.
Documents and other pieces of evidence can become lost over time. Try to get everything you need for your case right away.
The Property Manager Says They Are Not the Owner
When people get hurt, the property managers might argue they are not the actual owners of the land. Many of them use the excuse to avoid a compensation payment. A lawyer knows how to find the facts to determine who controls the place.
An attorney could interview employees or independent contractors who conduct business on the property. Additionally, lease and property ownership documents help show responsibility. If the defendant claims they do not control the land, the papers can prove otherwise.
The at-fault party might use other excuses to avoid paying you money. Have an experienced premises liability law firm on your side every step of the way.