Hundreds of thousands of people are injured each year resulting from a dangerous condition on someone else’s property. Primarily these are in slip and fall or trip and fall cases, but other premises liability injury types include falls from unsafe stairs and platforms, injuries from falling objects, crush/impact injuries from defective gates and doors, burns and shocks from unprotected heat and electrical sources, drownings, and the list goes on.
It is the responsibility of homeowners, landowners, business owners and/or their designated management companies to meet minimum safety standards on premises. When they fail to do so, in some circumstances they may be held legally responsible, or liable, for any injuries sustained.
If you are injured on someone else’s property, there are a few key elements that will determine whether or not you have a valid premises liability claim.
The key elements of a premises liability claim include:
1. There is a contractual or implied duty of care in place.
2. The owner/manager’s negligence or wrongful act resulted in injury.
3. The owner/manager had notice of dangerous condition or reasonable time to discover it.
4. It must be shown that the dangerous condition was the cause of injury.
Duty of Care
First, it must be established that the owner/manager has a contractual or implied duty of care.
For the duty of care to apply, the person being held liable must own or manage the property on which the injury occurred, and the injured person must be an invitee, or a licensee.
Someone who has been invited into someone’s home as a guest is an example of an invitee. Store customers or hotel guests would also be considered invitees.
An example of a licensee is a repair person or vendor: someone who, similar to an invitee, is on the property at the approval of the owner – although they may be there for their own purpose or occupation. In some rare cases, even a trespasser may be protected under premises liability law.
A property owner has a duty to ensure people allowed on the premises, or those with a reasonable cause to be there, are safe from harm.
Breach of Duty
A breach of that duty may be caused either by negligence or a wrongful act.
Negligence is defined as violating a particular duty, such as a law or regulation, that results in an injury the law or regulation was designed to prevent. So, a building code violation is a clear breach of duty; for instance, crumbling steps or a cracked sidewalk leading to the building entrance. Conditions like these create an unsafe environment for people invited or allowed to be on the property.
A wrongful act might be an intentional act, such as assault, or an unintentional action, like recklessness or carelessness – which is something you might see in the frenzy of a Black Friday sale.
Proof of Notice
The third requirement is to show that the owner had actual notice of the dangerous condition. For instance, if the owner, or one of his or her employees, created the dangerous condition, or was informed of the condition in time to fix it or post a warning sign.
The owner may also be liable if there was constructive notice of a hazardous condition. That means the condition existed for a period of time, where it is reasonable to expect that the dangerous condition could be discovered and threat mitigated before an injury causing incident occurs.
Let’s say a victim has no evidence of how long a dangerous condition existed, but does have some evidence of the owner’s failure to inspect the premises within a reasonable period. That evidence may be enough to permit a legal inference of constructive notice. For instance, it is reasonable to assume that the property owner, or one of his or her employees, should have noticed crumbling steps or a cracked sidewalk leading to their building entrance.
Frequently, a landowner will assert that the defect was “trivial,” and s/he should not be held liable. The courts recognize that it isn’t reasonable to hold landowners legally responsible for every minor imperfection on the property, and that minor defects, such as slight differences in elevation on heavily traveled surfaces are bound to occur. However, crumbling masonry or large cracks in pavement would probably not be considered minor.
The fourth requirement for a premises liability claim is to show that the injury was caused by the dangerous condition. If a person suffered a head injury because s/he tripped and fell due to crumbling steps or a cracked sidewalk, causation is clear. In other situations, it may not be as easy to establish. This is an area in which a personal injury attorney can help make your case.
Different Types of Premises Liability Cases
Premises liability cases may arise from injuries sustained at private properties, such as another person’s home, or on public property, such as a business or commercial property (e.g., a store or a hotel). Different laws and statutes of limitations apply to injuries sustained on commercial properties, and those sustained on government properties, such as a U.S. Post Office.
In some situations, there may be third-party liability claim in addition to a claim made against the premises owner. For instance, if your injury was caused by a defective product like a poorly designed chair – it is possible that a claim can be brought against the manufacturer of the chair, as well as the establishment where the incident took place.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed due to the dangerous conditions present on someone else’s property or establishment, whether on private or public, you may have a valid premises liability case. Our team of experienced premises liability injury lawyers are here to help you successfully navigate the complex system of premises liability law in order to obtain just compensation for your injuries.
Call TorkLaw today for a free, no obligation consultation at 888.845.9696. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us anything unless we win. We can help you obtain the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled.